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Eudora Welty: A Writer's Life





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About the book:

"They'd have a hard time trying to find out something about me," Eudora Welty once told an interviewer to explain her fierce aversion to biography. Ann Waldron, who has written well-received biographies of Southern novelist Caroline Gordon and editor Hodding Carter, discovered just how hard a time when she set out to write the first, and of course unauthorized, biography of this "sanctified, canonized, apotheosized" literary figure. But Waldron persisted to brilliant results: Eudora: A Writer's Life is not only a fully detailed portrait but a fair and balanced one.

"Ugly to the point of being grotesque," as a fellow Mississippian said of her, Welty, who was born in Jackson in 1909, always made her way by charm, wit, and an offbeat sense of humor. Though Waldron admits that few of Welty's friends would talk to her, she nonetheless tracked down amazing amounts of new material on her personal life--her tense, guilt-ridden relationship with her widowed mother; her sustaining friendships with such literary figures as Katherine Anne Porter, Elizabeth Bowen, and Reynolds Price; and her possible romance with the mysterious John Robinson, who, like many of the men in Welty's life, turned out to be gay.

Waldron does a creditable, if at times perfunctory, job of following the trajectory of Welty's literary career--from her first hauntingly strange short stories collected in A Curtain of Green to whimsical productions of her midcareer like The Ponder Heart to her "warm, appealing, beautifully written" memoir, One Writer's Beginnings. Literary analysis is scant here, but that's fine, because many others have written at length and in depth about Welty's work. But only Ann Waldron has dared to do the life--and she has succeeded in making it clear, sympathetic, respectful, and wonderfully readable. --David Laskin

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