A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews

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University Press of Mississippi, 1994 - Fiction - 280 pages
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Although she is eminent primarily as the prize-winning author of classic works of fiction, Eudora Welty is notable also as an astute literary critic. Her essays on the art of fiction and on the writers who enlarged the range of the short story and the novel are definitive pieces. Her distinguished book reviews, along with her critical essays, augment her reputation for being one of the most discerning author-critics in literary America.

This collection of her book reviews manifests the connecting of her penetrating eye with her responsive intellect in forming sympathetic judgments of the books she reviewed. Between 1942 and 1984 Welty wrote sixty-seven reviews of seventy-four books. Fifty-eight of these appeared in the New York Times Book Review , and others in the Saturday Review of Literature, Tomorrow, theHudson Review, the New York Post, and the Sewanee Review. The reviewed books include novels, short story collections, books of essays, biographies and memoirs, books of letters, children's books, books of ghost stories, photography books, books of literary criticism, and books of World War II art.

Over nearly half a century she reviewed books by some of the foremost authors of her time: Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, V.S. Pritchett, Colette, Isak Dinesen, E.B. White, E.M. Forster, J.D. Salinger, Ross Macdonald, Patrick White, S.J. Perelman, Annie DIllard, Elizabeth Bowen, and Katherine Anne Porter.

A Writer's Eye includes all of Welty's book reviews, even one published in the under the pseudonym "Michael Ravenna." SIxteen of the reviews were collected previously in Welty's The Eye of the Story (1978). In this collection Pearl Amelia McHaney's introduction records the history of Welty's career in book reviewing and illuminates the honestly and compassion with which Welty wrote reviews.

Welty's keen vision, her wit, and her refined style make these "monuments to interruption," a phrase she wrote in description of Virginia Woolf's essays and reviews, an important record of her literary standards and special interests. They show us as well how book reviewing consumed a large measure of creative time that she customarily devoted to fiction writing. Placed beside her authoritative critical essays, this volume enhances Welty's considerable literary stature and completes the image of Eudora Welty as a consummate woman of letters.

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A writer's eye: collected book reviews

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Between 1942 and 1984, Welty ( The Robber Bridegroom ; The Optimist's Daughter , among many other works) wrote 69 book reviews, 31 during the 1940s alone. Fifty-nine were published in The New York ... Read full review

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About the author (1994)

Eudora Welty, April 13, 1909 - July 23, 2001 One of the most admired American writers, Eudora Welty has steadily gone on writing short stories and novels that are entirely original, sometimes melodramatic, occasionally fantastic, and often concerned with psychological aberration. She has a fine ear for dialogue and a sense of style that elevates her fiction above the ordinary. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, she attended the Mississippi State College for Women before going north to the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University. She worked for a while in advertising, then returned to Jackson to take a government publicity job. She has remained in Jackson since then, living quietly with her family and pursuing a literary career that has brought her several awards and much critical attention. Some of her better-known short stories, frequently anthologized and thus widely taught and studied in classrooms, are "Why I Live at the P.O.," "Death of a Traveling Salesman," "Petrified Man," and "A Worn Path." Although Welty's critical reputation remains largely dependent upon her excellent short stories, she has also written four full-length novels, which have been well received. Delta Wedding (1946) is a densely plotted novel with many characters told from multiple points of view. It explores with intelligence and subtlety problems of domestic relationships and the mixing of social classes. The Ponder Heart (1954), a more simply told story, centers on the murder trial of a man unjustly accused of killing his young wife. With Losing Battles (1970), Welty deals again with the complexities of a large family gathering. The Optimist's Daughter (1972) is the story of tangled relationships between a 71-year-old judge undergoing a critical eye operation in a New Orleans hospital, his daughter, a withdrawn widow summoned from Chicago, and the judge's second wife of "coarse breeding," younger than his daughter. Gradually, this subtle story of father-daughter and husband-wives begins to reverberate with further complications. Howard Moss called the book "a miracle of compression. . . . The best book Eudora Welty has ever written" (N.Y. Times). One Writer's Beginnings (1984), an engaging volume of reminiscences originally given as lectures at Harvard University, had the unusual distinction (for a serious work of literary nonfiction published by a university press) of climbing high on the bestseller lists during 1984. Her other nonfiction includes One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression (1972), A Snapshot Album (1971), and The Eye of the Storm: Selected Essays and Reviews (1977). Welty will perhaps be best remembered for her highly eclectic and original voice, her brilliant style and revealing dialogue, her humane celebration of characters, and her visionary outlook and playful exuberance.

Pearl Amelia McHaney is associate professor of English at Georgia State University.

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