Publisher and Publication Date: Harcourt Brace. 1982.
Genre: Fiction. Short Stories.
I’d had this weighty book in my to be read pile for a few years. I’d started and then became distracted by other books. I became determined to finish this book in 2017 and the goal was met.
Several years ago I took a writing class. The teacher exclaimed that not all writers can write short stories. It takes a certain style and talent to pull off a story in a few pages. I did not fully understand this comment until I read, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty. While reading this collection of short stories, I studied Welty’s style. She packs a punch in the first sentence or paragraph. She does not wait for a later moment to begin the crescendo for storytelling. I noticed an even pace to all the stories. They are not rushed. They are not too slow. They have a steady rhythm. I wondered if she listened to a metronome while she was writing (just kidding.) The characters bloom at the start of the story. The characters are important to the overall story. The characters are not props or fill-ins to add something that is truly unneeded. Lastly, the stories have meaning. They have a message to pass to the reader.
A total of 41 stories are included. The stories have dates written between 1941 and 1966.
The stories show a view of society and culture of the south. This is the period of time just before the civil rights era. The last two chapters were written with Medgar Evers, and a violence during a demonstration in mind.
The stories include a strained mother and daughter relationship, people at a train station, Mrs. Larkin and her garden, and a couple who meet in New Orleans.
My favorite story is No Place For You, My Love. The setting is a Sunday afternoon in summer. The place is New Orleans, Louisiana. A couple see each other at a luncheon party. He invites her to take a drive south, away from New Orleans. A drive just to see how far the road takes them. They spend the day together. The day is hot and sticky. I wondered if the insects are accompanying them like an invading army or maybe they are being chaperoned? I have read this story twice. I read it a second time to see if I missed anything and I had. Welty uses the two characters voices, including their thoughts, and she pans out away from them and tells the story herself. He sees something in the woman. He has been observing her dress, hat, hair, mannerisms. Their drive down south was a sightseeing experience. From a large perspective of what they see to a smaller detailed view. Emphasis is made to the sun, heat, wind, insects, speed of the car, preconceived thoughts, the road itself, and the lone bar at the end of the road. My favorite lines from the entire book are in this story.
A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told-returned to the world it came out of. For their different reasons, he thought, neither of them would tell this (unless something was dragged out of them): that, strangers, they had ridden down into a strange land together and were getting safely back-by a slight margin, perhaps, but margin enough. Page 480.
I loved this story. Two people, strangers who by chance spend the day together. They were lonely people. They connected. In later years, probably neither one of them told a soul about this memorable day. It is not that I look at this story as romantic and worthy of a heavy sigh. I believe it is a memorable story, because it is filled with the reality of humanity. Despite living in a populated world, some people are still lonely, and they reach out hoping someone will fill that empty spot.