On Writing (Modern Library (Paperback))

On Writing (Modern Library (Paperback))

Eudora Welty

Language: English

Pages: 128

ISBN: 0679642706

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Eudora Welty was one of the twentieth century’s greatest literary figures. For as long as students have been studying her fiction as literature, writers have been looking to her to answer the profound questions of what makes a story good, a novel successful, a writer an artist. On Writing presents the answers in seven concise chapters discussing the subjects most important to the narrative craft, and which every fiction writer should know, such as place, voice, memory, and language. But even more important is what Welty calls “the mystery” of fiction writing—how the writer assembles language and ideas to create a work of art.

Originally part of her larger work The Eye of the Story but never before published in a stand-
alone volume, On Writing is a handbook every fiction writer, whether novice or master, should keep within arm’s reach. Like The Elements of Style, On Writing is concise and fundamental, authoritative and timeless—as was Eudora Welty herself.

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Fury out of Mississippi? If place does work upon genius, how does it? It may be that place can focus the gigantic, voracious eye of genius and bring its gaze to point. Focus then means awareness, discernment, order, clarity, insight—they are like the attributes of love. The act of focusing itself has beauty and meaning; it is the act that, continued in, turns into mediation, into poetry. Indeed, as soon as the least of us stands still, that is the moment something extraordinary is seen to be

down character.… Chekhov was exorcizing nothing, he simply showed it forth. But as I have indicated, there is more than literary criticism here. Her essay “Must the Novelist Crusade?,” written at the height of the civil rights crisis of the middle sixties, is fresh and burning with truth. In that essay, she confronts the evil of her time with toughness and compassion: I believe there must be such a thing as sentimental hate.… I think the worst of it is that we are getting stuck in it. We are

down he no doubt does escape it a little). And so certainly he does choose his subject. It’s not really quibbling to say that a writer’s subject, in due time, chooses the writer—not of course as a writer, but as the man or woman who comes across it by living and has it to struggle with. That person may come on it by seeming accident, like falling over a chair in a dark room. But he may invite it with wide-open arms, so that it eventually walks in. Or his subject may accrue, build up and build up

it. Then the novel will have been not the work of imagination, at once passionate and objective, made by a man struggling in solitude with something of his own to say, but a piece of catering. To cater to is not to love and not to serve well either. We do need to bring to our writing, over and over again, all the abundance we possess. To be able, to be ready, to enter into the minds and hearts of our own people, all of them, to comprehend them (us) and then to make characters and plots in

business to tease. The story is told through Phoenix’s mind as she undertakes her errand. As the author at one with the character as I tell it, I must assume that the boy is alive. As the reader, you are free to think as you like, of course: the story invites you to believe that no matter what happens, Phoenix for as long as she is able to walk and can hold to her purpose will make her journey. The possibility that she would keep on even if he were dead is there in her devotion and its

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