I started a big thick book about Eudora Welty last week. In the introduction, the author kept referring to One Writer's Beginnings, which Welty wrote in the early 1980s after being pestered for years by friends and readers to tell her own story. I decided I was reading the wrong book, took back the heavy one, and checked out this slender volume, which I quickly read.
Welty took three lectures that she gave at Harvard University and reworked them into this memoir with three sections: "Listening," "Learning to See," and "Finding a Voice." Into these she wove stories about her parents and grandparents, memories of the long trips she took with them from Jackson, Mississippi back to West Virginia and Ohio by train or early motor car, and stories about her college years and first jobs. In the third section, she tells how she used her experiences, sometimes unconsciously, in crafting her short stories and novels. In the center of the book she added a small collectioin of family photos.
As she wrote in her works of fiction, in One Writer's Beginnings Welty wrote vivid, often brief accounts, with just enough detail to convey the scenes to her readers. Instead of being exhausted, the readers wish there was more. This memoir should be read by her fans. Other readers who check out family histories will enjoy it, too.
Welty, Eudora. One Writer's Beginnings. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983. ISBN 0674639251