"Stories, Essays, and Memoir" contains all of Welty's collected short stories, her first book, "A Curtain of Green and Other Stories" (1941), stories based on her travels, and the ever-popular memoir, "One Writer's Beginnings" (1984).
It's small wonder that the Library of America chose Eudora Welty as the first living (at that time) author published in this prestigious series. Welty was the kind of writer people routinely call "an American institution." But don't let the sweet white-haired-old-lady image fool you: Welty's work is anything but benign. For more than 50 years, Welty spoke with a fierce and uncompromising literary voice. Or, rather, voices
: the stories collected in this volume feature a dizzying array of characters, each of whom seems to whisper directly into the reader's ear. From the toxic rage of "Where Is the Voice Coming From?" to the jazzy rhythms of "Powerhouse," these tales blaze with intensity and a comic energy that's both gentle and fierce. Even that bane of junior-high-school speech tournaments everywhere, "Why I Live at the P.O.," benefits from rereading; as far as this brand of down-home farce goes, Welty does it better than anyone. Bringing together the contents of Welty's four short-fiction collections, this Library of America volume also includes several essays as well as Welty's very fine 1984 memoir, "One Writer's Beginnings." In it she speaks of connections, continuities, the way both her fiction and her experiences emerged gradually into focus over time:
...suddenly a light is thrown back, as when your train makes a curve, showing that there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you on the way you've come, is rising there still, proven now through retrospect.
This volume is that light thrown back; the full import of Welty's enormously influential work is perhaps apparent only now, in this substantial and rewarding retrospective of her career. --Mary Park