Our Southern heritage offers great lessons. In this case, I speak of Eudora Welty’s self-awareness.
“It is our inward journey that leads us time–forward or back . . . seldom in a straight line, most often spiraling. Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others. As we discover, we remember . . . and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge.”–Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
This may be my best writing lesson.
Years ago, I set off for summer school in Jackson, Mississippi. Miss Welty’s shady neighborhood backed up to the college campus. As the sun dropped down, I would jump on my bicycle and pedal past her house. I wanted to wave but didn’t. I spotted her in the local Jitney a few times. Nobody fussed about her celebrity. She went about her business; they went about theirs.
That’s what I love about Mississippi. It’s chock-full of artists that most residents treat like neighbors. I met a few self-absorbed writers in my occasional brushes with literary folk. (The worst was the first and last literary conference I attended two years ago.) Not in Mississippi.
In 2005, Francine Prose wrote a thoughtful review of Eudora Welty: A Biography bySuzanne Marrs. The book “belongs on the shelf beside its subject’s own work. Neither hagiography nor pathography, it is, you feel, the thoroughly respectful and straightforward biography its honest, modest, intensely private subject would have wanted.”