Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book Review: Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

About two weeks ago I finally finished this book. It took a long time. I liked the stories in general, but when a collection gets to this size, it's hard to like them much when you pass 600 pages. Even though I many have suffered from some bias by the length and repetitiveness of anything this long, I think the early stories were the best. There's a bit of the Southern Gothic in them. Killers and losers appear here next to innocents. Welty, though, doesn't impose a morality on these characters, or on us. Inf act , reviewing the last lines of some of these early stories, there really is a kind of existentialism:

- "Billy boy....flung back the words, 'If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?'"
- "You could see that he despised and saw the uselessness of the thing he had done."
- "...I'd simply put my fingers in both my ears and refuse to listen."

As the stories advance in years, Welty draws more on Southern rural life and all its aspects and less on the drama of the early stories. These middle stories, focusing on a single community and its inhabitants at various points in time, are rich. Yet at the same time they have new elements that enrich them, they lack some of what I enjoyed most out of the early stories.

My interest had wained by the time I got to the last third of the collection. There was nothing bad or even frustratingly pointless here, but I was ready to move on by the time I reached page 400.

Welty is a remarkable writer, I just wouldn't recommend this collection in this form to anyone. Instead, go with the novels, Delta Wedding or The Optimist's Daughter, or one of the original (smaller) short story collections and you'll be mighty impressed.

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