Monday, July 1, 2013

Eudora Welty

July/November, 2013:  The arrival (earlier than expected) of our baby has had an impact on my Books of the Moment cataloguing, or bloguing.  For a start, capital letters require more effort when the hand that usually holds down the 'shift' key is holding the breast-pump in position.  Also, I think each blogue will have to be more concise, like everything in my life - showers, phone calls, sleep etc.

Several days before my waters broke, back in May, I spent a day in a bean bag at my mother's house reading Eudora Welty's Robber Bridegroom (1942).  I'd recently applied for a grant to write a novella I'm describing as a modern fairy story.  In writing the project outline, I began to think of modern fairy stories I've read, including Robber Bridegroom.  The truth is, much as I love real fairy stories, I don't particularly like modern ones, which have the hand of their maker all over them, no matter how well the traditional style has been captured.  Why I don't is an essay in itself (as opposed to a concise blogue).

Eudora Welty's writing is clear and pure, sometimes almost childlike in its simplicity (and many of her short stories feature children as characters).  But often, after reading one of her stories, I've felt the true meaning has eluded me - eluded my conscious mind, but penetrated me all the same.  With her pure writing, she is capable of exploring murkiness and ambiguity, mysteries and paradoxes.  A writer like her would be drawn to this story, where the characters twist and turn, with a lead male who is both hero and villain, and a heroine who faithfully loves him yet also mistrusts him.  I would hazard to say it is a story about the murkiness of attraction, and the danger of truly getting to know one's lover, but months later, her version of the Robber Bridegroom still puzzles me.

Here is some Welty wisdom...I've never liked presents from swains much, ever since that first rather contractual ring and a single-red-rose at age 15 (though I'd lied and said I was 16).  The best presents are ones picked in back lanes, or found on the sand:

"I wonder what presents he will be bringing next," she said in a loud whisper.

This angered Clement, who said to her, "You will find that men who are generous the way he is generous have needs to match."

And  a speech I liked, for its echoes of "the world is too much with us", a poem oft-quoted in our household:

"But the time of cunning has come," said Clement, "and my time is over, for cunning is of a world I will have no part in.  Two long ripples are following down the Mississippi behind the approaching somnolent eyes of the alligator.  And like the tenderest deer, a band of copying Indians poses along the bluff to draw us near them.  Men are following men down the Mississippi, hoarse and arrogant by day, wakeful and dreamless by night at the unknown landings.  A trail leads like a tunnel under the roof of this wilderness.  Everywhere the traps are set.  Why?  And what kind of time is this, when all is first given, then stolen away?
"Wrath and love burn only like the campfires.  And even the appearance of a hero is no longer a single and majestic event like that of a star in the heavens, but a wandering fire soon lost.  A journey is forever lonely and parallel to death, but the two watch each other, the traveller and the bandit, through the trees..."

This beautiful speech "on the lateness of the age" continues, but the baby is stirring, and I am striving for concision.