On Our Shelves Now
Featuring a new introduction, this updated edition of the New York Times bestselling classic by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author and one of the most revered figures in American letters is “profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write” (Los Angeles Times).
Born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty shares details of her upbringing that show us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing as well. Everyday sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father’s coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that became a metaphor for her mother’s sturdy independence, Eudora’s earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture.
In her vivid descriptions of growing up in the South—of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the children they taught—she recreates the vanished world of her youth with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction, capturing “the mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory, and experience become art” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
Part memoir, part exploration of the seeds of creativity, this unique distillation of a writer’s beginnings offers a rare glimpse into the Mississippi childhood that made Eudora Welty the acclaimed and important writer she would become.
About the Author
Eudora Welty (1909–2001), one of the most important and beloved writers of the 20th century and master of the short story form, was born and lived most of her life in Jackson, Mississippi. The author of multiple essays, novellas, and novels, including The Optimist’s Daughter and Delta Wedding. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Order of the South, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize, among many other literary awards. She was also the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America.
"She shows us how close we all are to literature if we only knew it. After reading her book, we might go back and re-examine our lives and feel better about them ... There isn't a single slip or false note in One Writer's Beginings."
—New York Times
"The parts of the book that are about her family, her immediate family and going back for two or three generations, are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present from Miss Welty to her audience."
—The New Yorker
"Filled with tender memories of her parents and grandparents, with family lore an the sights and sounds of family life, and with charming family photographs... a rare gift for us all."
"An intimate, exhilarating and often painful process of discovery—discovery of the meanings that illuminate things others might take for granted."
"[A] lovely little book ... polished as it is into a small work of art."
"An affectionate, vivid reminiscence ... She simply describes what underlies her own work, and in the process creates a fine piece of Americana."
"Profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write serious fiction."
—Los Angeles Times
"A book of great sensitivity—as controlled and yet aspiring as a lyric poem."
"She writes always of human beings, observed with skill and love and delight ... This splendid little book will itself be remembered and used and loved."
"The beautiful, affecting descriptions of a world that exists now only in her memory and in her remarkable novels and short stories, give this book a warmth, a glow, a resplendence that are rarely encountered in contemporary literature. These sensitive autobiographical recollections should bring the author to the attention of an even larger, more enthusiastic audience and focus renewed attention on her earlier books."
"These are the recollections and reflections of one highly civilized American. Only to read a prefactory paragraph, set in italics as a kind of epigraph, less than 150 words evoking a tender family image, is to know oneself in the presence of first-rate writing."
—Wall Street Journal
"Crowded with exactly remembered townspeople, with objects and sounds recollected with preternatural clarity."
"Magical ... every vignette turns into its own short story ... There are a million other delights in this book."
"Allows us glimpses of her personal life, not to call attention to herself, but to show us how one writer has woven the threads of her life into the fabric of her fiction ... One Writer's Beginnings will be cherished by all who treasure enduring art."
—Dallas Morning News
"Extraordinary...will surely become a classic."
"Beguiling ... Profound and priceless."
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"As fresh and welcome as magnolia blossoms in May."
—Christian Science Monitor