One Writer's Beginnings

( 34 )

Overview

Now available as an audio CD, in Eudora Welty's own voice, or as a book.

Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless...

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Overview

Now available as an audio CD, in Eudora Welty's own voice, or as a book.

Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction.

Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.

Forty-six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and nominee for the National Book Critics Award, this incomparable work--part memoir, part essay, and part autobiography--offers a revealing look into the life of one of America's most acclaimed writers. 8 pages of photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times Book Review
Beguiling as autobiography and...profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write serious fiction...It may, at that, not be possible to convey to someone else that mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory and experience become art. Yet, in these few pages, Eudora Welty seems to have followed the trail...to the richness of her maturity with a gracious and warming clarity.
New Yorker - William Maxwell
In these lectures, thoughtful attention is given to a great many experiences...It is all wonderful...The parts of the book that are about her family...are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present...from Miss Welty to her audience.
London Review of Books - Daniel Aaron
[Eudora Welty] is to be looked for, not in blatant self-advertising confidences, hints and nudges, but in the metaphorical clues she drops, which are the exposures of a disciplined sensibility. From them we can deduce a history of a life. One might say her writing, spun out like the web of a 'noiseless patient spider,' is not about but of herself. At bottom, the beauty and astonishment of her fiction, as Emerson might say, is 'all design.' For it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free.
Booknews
**** A reprint of the Harvard University Press edition (1984), a William E. Massey, Sr. lecture in the history of American civilization (1983); and recommended by BCL3. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
London Review of Books

[Eudora Welty] is to be looked for, not in blatant self-advertising confidences, hints and nudges, but in the metaphorical clues she drops, which are the exposures of a disciplined sensibility. From them we can deduce a history of a life. One might say her writing, spun out like the web of a 'noiseless patient spider,' is not about but of herself. At bottom, the beauty and astonishment of her fiction, as Emerson might say, is 'all design.' For it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free.
— Daniel Aaron

New Yorker

In these lectures, thoughtful attention is given to a great many experiences...It is all wonderful...The parts of the book that are about her family...are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present...from Miss Welty to her audience.
— William Maxwell

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty's many honors include the Pulitzer Prize; the American Book Award for fiction; and the Gold Medal for the Novel, given by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for her entire work in fiction.

Biography

Although she traveled extensively and lived in various places during her extraordinary literary career, short story writer and novelist Eudora Welty seemed always to return to Jackson, Mississippi, the beloved hometown where she spent most of her adult life and where she undoubtedly drew inspiration for her pitch-perfect regional fiction.

Born into a happy, close-knit family on April 13, 1909, Welty attended Mississippi State College, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, then moved to New York in 1930 to attend Columbia's business school for advertising. A year later, her father's death brought her home. She worked locally in radio, wrote articles for a newspaper, and served as a publicity agent for the WPA throughout rural areas of the state. (A gifted photographer, Welty shot a number of remarkable candids at this time which were later published in the 1978 collection One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression.) A few of her stories appeared in small literary magazines in the late 1930s, but it was not until the following decade that her career took off. Her first short fiction collection, A Curtain of Green, and a debut novella, The Robber Bridegroom, were published respectively in 1941 and 1942.

Although Welty has penned some wonderful full-length novels (The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter), it is her short stories -- peopled with peculiar, colorful eccentrics who maintain an undeniable charm in spite of their grotesquerie -- that have cemented her reputation as one of our finest regional writers. During her long literary career she accrued dozens of honors, including multiple O. Henry Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France's Legion of Honor, and dozens of honorary degrees. On July, 23, 2001, she died peacefully in her home in Jackson, Mississippi. She was 92 years old.

Good To Know

  • Welty worked for a year at The New York Times Book Review, where she wrote about war-related topics under the pseudonym "Michael Ravenna."

  • In 1964, Welty published her one and only story for children, The Shoe Bird.

  • Culled from a series of lectures she delivered at Harvard, Welty's memoir, One Writer's Beginnings, was published in 1984.

  • So legendary was Welty's "niceness" that her agent Timothy Seldes told a wonderful, apocryphal story at her funeral. Supposedly, as the author lay on her deathbed, her doctor leaned over and asked "Eudora, is there anything I can do for you?" Her rumored reply? "No, but thank you so much for inviting me to the party."
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      1. Date of Birth:
        April 13, 1909
      2. Place of Birth:
        Jackson, Mississippi
      1. Date of Death:
        July 23, 2001
      2. Place of Death:
        Jackson, Mississippi
      1. Education:
        University of Wisconsin

    Table of Contents

    I. Listening

    II. Learning To See

    III. Finding A Voice

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 34 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (8)

    4 Star

    (17)

    3 Star

    (5)

    2 Star

    (3)

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    (1)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted October 26, 2012

      Delightful

      Author lead us through her life, from beginning to end, in a thoughtful, introspective way

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    • Posted January 17, 2011

      more from this reviewer

      Vivid Brilliance, a master writer

      Eudora Welty has honed her craft into an effortless culmination of beauty in every sentence. You are all at once bombarded with the deliciousness of her writing; seeing, hearing, tasting all that is said and smiling all the way through because her wit is fierce. A highly recommended writer's companion for all those aspiring to sharpen their mighty pens.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 25, 2005

      A helpful tool for aspiring, young writers.

      Capturing the essence of writing, readers of this novel are able to experience the joy of reading and writing Eudora Welty hopes to share. She, throughout this novel, creatively intertwines the experiences of her life with hidden ¿tips¿ for writing. The three sections of the novel, divide her life into three eras, according to maturity. ¿Listening,¿ the first chapter, innocently describes the humble experiences of her youth. The name is self-explanatory to the content of the chapter, as she openly writes of her curious childhood. The readers understand that listening is the first step to developing one¿s writing skills. ¿Learning to See¿ is another phase of the narrator¿s life that she hopes to express. In this chapter, the narrator¿s family, who takes a prominent role in her life, is revealed. Learning about her loved ones, readers infer that every person mentioned claimed some part in her development. This characteristic of this autobiography helps the aspiring writers notice the importance of every person he/she encounters, because experience develops one¿s writing capabilities. Finally, ¿Finding a Voice¿ assists the audience to hear the voice of the splendid writer herself, Eudora Welty. We, as readers, hear her advice. She expresses her love of language, transformed into writing. Encouraging us to appreciate books, she writes ¿I would do anything to read.¿ To anyone who enjoys reading and writing, the wise advise of an expert will prove helpul.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 25, 2005

      Finding Yourself

      ¿The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order¿ (69). Our memory does not always remember events in chronological order and Eudora Welty skillfully portrays this in a heartfelt mini-autobiography, One Writer¿s Beginnings. Even though it was required to read for school, I enjoyed reading it and feel than I have become more knowledgeable as a writer. The book consists of only three chapters, each having to do with different experiences in her life that paradoxically serve as stages of writing: Listening, Learning To See, and Finding A Voice. Each of these senses played an important role in Welty¿s childhood and influenced her writings later in life. The book consists of scenes from her youth that are logically and meticulously put together, especially the memories of her parents. Welty writes, ¿emotions do not grow old,¿ (52) and this story proves it. It seems that her experiences happened just yesterday through her attention to detail. The way that she interweaves her childhood experiences with the lessons that she learned and the lessons that she learned with her future writings impressed me to say the least. Welty¿s use of language and imagery transform the book into a short masterpiece and established her, in my mind, as a true writer. Her implications of writing technique inform the reader without taking away from the rest of the novel. In One Writer¿s Beginnings ¿[t]here was more to see, more to smell, more to climb on; nothing appeared to be forbidden¿ (65).

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 21, 2005

      More Than Just 'Blatant Self-Advertising'

      Eudora Welty¿s novel is a literary gem, full of personal and creative insights into the development of a writer. The novel is divided into three specific chapters devoted to anecdotes from Welty¿s life. In addition, these chapters correspond to the growth of a writer¿s ability. The first chapter, ¿Listening,¿ discusses Welty¿s childhood and her first experiences with literature. Through her stories and ¿scenes¿ Welty emphasizes the fact that in order to become a good writer, one must learn from both childhood experiences and the opinions and beliefs of others. Eudora Welty believes that a writer must constantly learn to improve his or her art, and acknowledges that the learning process is a slow and difficult one, ¿Learning stamps you with its moments¿It isn¿t steady. It¿s a pulse¿ (9). Only through learning, can the writer become great. In the second chapter, ¿Learning to See,¿ Welty discusses her family heritage. How this chapter correlates to the title is confusing at first, but it is inferred that Welty wants her readers to see that connections in writing are as important as connections in a family tree. She wants her readers to understand that writing must connect together to make a complete story, much like family members come together to create a complete history. In the last chapter entitled ¿Finding a Voice,¿ Welty discusses her adult years. The chapter emphasizes that only after a writer has covered the basics, has learned, has connected, can the writer begin to develop ideas and opinions of his or her own. Overall, the brief autobiography is entertaining and insightful. Welty develops a story that captivates and never lets go.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      An Interesting Look Into the Development of a Writer

      Eudora Welty's novel is a great read for anyone interested in the development of one of America¿s brilliant female writers. Welty¿s novel¿considered ¿part memoir, part essay, and part autobiography¿¿details the factors that influenced Welty to become an author, from her touching account of her mother reading to her as a small child to her love of diction. The novel is separated into three chapters, titled ¿Listening.¿ ¿Learning to See,¿ and ¿Finding a Voice.¿ Each chapter reveals bits of information that the reader can piece together to complete the puzzle of Welty¿s development as a writer; moreover, each chapter emphasizes Eudora Welty¿s belief that a successful author nurtures his or her creativity by building on past experiences and the wisdom of those geniuses who preceded him or her. As an extra treat, Welty includes insightful, witty aphorisms in her novel (¿A good snapshot stopped a moment from running away,¿) that amuse and challenge the reader. Eudora Welty presents an excellent novel that combines the elements of a memoir, an essay, and an autobiography perfectly to create an explanation of her development as a writer and give encouragement to budding writers, ¿[f]or all serious daring starts from within.¿

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      Wonderful

      It¿s not often that I come across reading that balances entertainment with insightfulness, facts with the abstract; but Eudora Welty in One Writer¿s Beginnings does just this for me, and I do feel as if she were doing it for me, documenting what my thoughts, though belonging only to an adolescent, have slowly unfolded as truth and at other times been revealed as in flashes of epiphany. But this isn¿t about me, rather, Welty¿s ability to capture this truth and reveal it so eloquently that I, on more than one occasion, re-read sentences, not because of lack of clarity on her part but because of the way she could clearly communicate ideas that, lacking the appropriate form, could otherwise be lost to a confused or disinterested reader. ¿Destination, when the train isn¿t moving, seems only a forgotten dream.¿ Because of her word choice, it¿s obvious that this isn¿t meant in the literal sense, though the preceding paragraphs dealt with train travel; but I still find myself highlighting it, reading it again, reflecting on the implications of this idea, how it relates to my life and my dreams, and wondering why such a sort sentence composed of a relatively simple idea would lead me into such deep thought. I think it¿s due to the tone of the book. Welty, in relating her `beginnings,¿ told of another story of growth, and within this the story of her development into an author, and eventually the merging of these into literature. Even as she describes her family and upbringing, significant events and travel, I find myself `reading into¿ the lines, searching for deeper meaning as she trains her reader to do; and it¿s all there. Just as she ties in her life¿s collection of wisdom with her characters and story lines, so does she, in the same way, document events in her life and relate them to truths regarding authorship or human tendencies or perhaps the importance of humor. It¿s a wonderful thing to a put piece of fiction beside its author¿s nonfiction and be able to point out the undertones, sources of subject, and the pieces of the author within it. Welty, among many other things in her book, allows the reader into this passage to observe her art and the way in which she pursues and perfects it, never ceasing to change or ignore the changing world around her. This she says in her words: ¿The frame through which I viewed the world changed too, with time. Greater than scene, I came to see, is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.¿ Bits of insightfulness are not scarce or hard to find. Maybe I enjoyed the book because I, at age sixteen, am at that age where I realize how young I am, how old I¿ll probably be someday, and that I¿ve got a long way to go to get from my current point A to that future point B. It¿s because of her that I can be excited about this trip, embrace it with a sense of humor not unfamiliar to her, and perhaps, if talent and luck prevail, capture it as she did through literature. I¿ve got a new friend in this lady. Even though she expresses no desire to teach, I¿ve learned much from her, dealing in areas helpful to aspiring authors, troubled teenagers, parents at midlife crisis, and all those in between. In case it isn¿t clear, any lover of reflection and words or wisdom and humor will thoroughly enjoy this read and probably feel as I did at its end, happy to have read it but sad to see its end. I¿ll attempt no great conclusion of my own but instead substitute hers as my own, as I believe it conveys what Welty (like memory) has done in my case: eliminate an age and generation barrier. ¿The memory is a living thing¿it too is in transit. But during its moment, all that is remembered joins and lives¿the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.¿

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      Insight

      This book is full of emotion and wisdom. One can tell by all that Welty documents that she has had a full life and has learned a great deal from the generations before her. She writes about how she began writing, kept it up and finished. It is full of imagination and makes one have a whole new outlook on life. One quote can sum up the idea behind her writings , 'As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover;'

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      Autobiography?

      Although Eudora Welty gives an excellent insight into her beginnings as a writer, I did not truly enjoy reading this novel. Welty has an extremely superior writing ability, and is a wonderful storyteller; however, I had a hard time distinguishing whether this was an autobiography or just an assortment of stories that describes, ¿One Writer¿s Beginnings.¿ I also thought that the organization of the book was rather strange. The chapters all focus on different times in her life and do not follow in chronological order. While I did not enjoy this novel that much, I do find that Welty had some extremely inspirational advice. One quote, which I felt was incredibly moving, is the following, ¿I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.¿ Although some people may not see her life as ¿daring,¿ Welty argues that she has lead a courageous life. This may not be my favorite book, but I do admire Welty for her genius and ability.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      What you see isn't what you get

      For a required school book, 'One Writer's Beginnings' was not painful to say the least. At a first glance, the content is easy to understand; however, after taking a closer look, Welty has hidden countless metaphors and symbols that portray a completely new 'side' of the author. Through Welty's detailed imagery, readers can almost relate to her 'love for words upon words ... and the beautiful, sober, acceration of a sentence.' To any apsiring artists, writers of any kind, and poets, this is the book for you. In the pages of this novel, you can follow Welty's way-of-thinking and process of becoming the writer of a 'New York Times' bestseller.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      Entertaining, Yet Informative

      Eudora Weltly is able to use her writing skills to connect a partial autobiography of her life to the way she developed as a writer. By telling humorous stories of her childhood, Weltly does not bore the reader, however she weaves her own insight into the story also. After finishing the book, the reader feels as though he has traveled along with Weltly throughout her life while also receiving insight to the world of a writer. Weltly writes, 'It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people.' To the reader, Weltly makes it clear that she is one of those people who writes the story books.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      The Growth of a Writer

      Eudora Welty¿s autobiography leads readers through her life and her growth into the fiction writer she became. This book is a must read for anyone who aspires to be a writer, fiction or non-fiction. From her memories of her parents to her own experiences, Eudora utilizes every word to reach out to her readers and lead them to the place they need to be. This autobiography will please any writer who realizes that their work ¿is [their] treasure¿ and ¿the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory ¿ the individual human memory.¿ This book is Eudora¿s ¿individual memories¿ and her life¿s experiences that led to her fictional stories.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 29, 2005

      Development of a Person and a Writer

      Eudora Welty has a gift with words. She tells the story of her life in a creative way. She takes the reader through her life as a child, a young adult, and a mature adult. She tells us how she developed as both a person and a writer. She began as a listener, absorbing all she could learn from her surroundings. She utilized this knowledge and formed her own opinions of life and relationships. She then created her voice to share her thoughts and memories through her writings. The novel brings us through Welty's life as she blossoms into the person she becomes. I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to others.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      One Writer's Beginnings

      This novel was quite enjoyable to read in its uniqueness. Although it is an autobiography, it mainly focuses on the events throughout Welty's entire lifetime that influenced her works as a fiction author yet still personally acquaints the reader with Welty. She includes entertaining stories of her childhood that strengthen the novel so that it does not simply list her inspirations but delves into her life as a child. The reader witnesses the evolution of Welty¿s mind as she matures from childhood to adulthood. The autobiography includes deep insights from Welty herself including one on the progression of her mental state as she grows. Welty states, ¿It is our inward journey that leads us through time- forward or back, seldom in a straight line, most often spiraling. Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others. As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge¿ (102). For those aspiring to be authors, reading One Writer¿s Beginnings is an excellent autobiography to read in order to understand the process as well as how the mind works and creates material. Even for those who do not want to pursue a writing career, Eudora Welty¿s work is a great book for simply understanding how childhood affects who people become; and the deep insights Welty provides throughout the piece are wonderful ideas to retain for thought.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      One Reader's Review

      This autobiography by Eudora Welty offers an interesting and unique glimpse into the mind of a writer. Welty divides her life into three chapters that describe her childhood years through the start of her writing career and show how her experiences have affected her writing style and content. Though the organization of the autobiography is often abrupt and jumpy, it is, on the whole, beautifully written. I would recommend this book to any aspiring writers, as it provides an inside look at writing as a profession from a successful writer's perspective-- a great deal of her experiences are easy to relate to. Also interesting is to see what Welty learned after becoming a writer: 'What discoveries I've made in the course of writing stories all begin with the particular, never the general... What one story may have pointed out to me is of no avail in the writing of another. But 'avail' is not what I want; freedom ahead is what each story promises-- beginning anew... Each writer must find out for himself, I imagine, on what strange basis he lives with his own stories.'

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      Small Book; Big Message

      Eudora Welty¿s <i>One Writer¿s Beginnings</i> was a pleasant surprise. It is filled with charming memories but does not fail to make its mark though deep and meaningful aphorisms that shaped her life as a rising author. Each childhood tale is descriptive and presented in a confident manner, unlike other unsure authors who attempt at retelling the prime moments of their youth. Every account somehow relates to ultimate theme of becoming a writer but they vary enough to provide the reader with new, interesting material. This is a must-read for any Southern girl, aspiring writer, or lover of words, just like Welty herself.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      For all serious daring starts from within.

      Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings is an insightful ¿window¿ into the life and formation of a writer. Written from the heart, Welty painstakingly describes and analyzes many of the details in her life which made her into the incredible writer she is remembered as. Broken up into three distinct chapters, each chapter includes the chronology of Welty¿s life as well as background information regarding the life of her parents and ancestors. A truly inspirational novel for all aspiring writers, advising that ¿all serious daring starts from within,¿ this novel takes readers on a journey from which a southern girl is transformed into an artist and her works transformed into a masterpiece.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      The Powerful Writing Style of Eudora Welty

      Eudora Welty tells a moving story about how her childhood helped her develop into the writer that she has become. She uses powerful quotes and words to emphasize her thoughts about her experiences. She provides the reader with a deeper meaning behind every story she relates. She said, 'I had to grow up and learn to listen for the unspoken as well as the spoken-and to know a truth, I had to recognize a lie' (15). This quote is an example of how Eudora Welty looked beyond what was right in front of her to find the more meaningful truth behind the story. Overall, this book was enjoyable. Many people can relate to her experiences and thoughts.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      One Writer's Beginnings

      Although I found the book to be rather boring, it taught me the value of family felt by the people of the early to mid 1900's. However, I felt that the text was too boring to be dragged so much, and it lost my attention early on. Welty believes that she 'became a wit and humorist (79)[,]' and also claims to be a humorous fictional writer. I have yet to read any of her other works, but do not see how she would be capable of writing 'humorous' fiction. However, her establishment of herself as a writer was impressive, beginning with her early childhood reading. The author does good in acknowledging her parents' role as well as her environment's role in her becoming a writer. But, I still would not regard this book as one of my favorites.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      Great Insight but...

      I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the topics and ideas discussed and explored in this book. Eudora Welty¿s ability to describe to the reader how and why she has pursued writing is amazing. She employs a collection of personal stories from the past, as well as imagery, and past experiences to do so. She offers helpful hints to other writers through her experiences in the past. ¿[W]hen I reached my twenties [that] I found the world out there revealing, because (as with my father now) memory had become attached to seeing, love and added itself to discovery.¿ Welty¿s combination of autobiographical information, helpful hints for writers, and feelings and ideas are wonderfully insightful and entertaining at times; however, the construction and organization of the novel was not pleasing to me whatsoever. The chapters were so long and encompassed so much information, that at times the tone shifts between paragraphs were distractingly blatant, especially without proper transitions. Also, many family members were introduced and discussed simultaneously, and it was impossible to keep track of them all. I also felt as though the book followed no specific order. She spoke of the deaths of family members and then spoke of them as alive again. The disorganized and choppy construction of the novel greatly detracted from its many great qualities.

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