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One Writer's Beginnings: Lectures in the History of American Civilization Paperback – Oct 1 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Oct. 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446393282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446393287
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.2 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,245,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Eudora Welty is considered one the the greatest fiction writers of the 20th century. Being from Mississippi myself, I am embarrassed to admit that until about four years ago, I had never read any of her work. After reading 'The Golden Apples' and 'The Optimist's Daughter,' I realized what a treasure I'd missed. 'One Writer's Beginnings' belongs in that treasure chest as well.
'One Writer's Beginnings' would probably be better appreciated by readers who have read at least a short story or two by the late Ms. Welty. (She passed away last year.) Her style and charm are obvious from the first page, but if this is the first contact a reader has had with Welty, he or she may not appreciate the book fully.
First of all, I should speak to what the book is NOT: It is not a how-to-be-a-writer book. It will not teach you how to tighten up your stories, how to plot, how to sell your stories, or anything else of a practical nature in the writing business. It is not a strict autobiography, although parts of Welty's life are described in detail. It is not a book to breeze through, even though it comes in at slightly over 100 pages.
What is the book? It is actually a series of three lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1983 when the writer was 74 years old. The three parts are titled as follows:
I. Listening - As a child, Welty spent many hours watching and listening to the people around her in Jackson, Mississippi. She carefully absorbed their stories and how they told them. She began to listen to and fall in love with words.
II. Learning to See - As she stepped outside of her home to visit relatives along with her parents, Welty makes some wonderful discoveries about her family in West Virginia and Ohio. Time is "a continuous thread of revelation.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a "how to" book about the writing of literature, but a short autobiography of a famed writer's growing up years. Any instruction is inferred rather than offered directly in Eudora Welty's recollections of her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi.

The book has charm and a wonderful mood about it. It's like sitting in the parlor of an old southern mansion while your gentle and eloquent Aunt recalls fascinating times gone by.
Perhaps Ms. Welty is one of the few literary authors who claims no childhood crutch to lean on. She had wonderful parents and relatives who nurtured her creativity and encouraged her dreams.
It's a fine thing that she pays homage to them in this wonderful little book.
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By Amy Blitchok on Dec 7 2001
Format: Paperback
Eudora Welty grew up in a time when the television seemed an impossibility and books were prized possessions, especially in the Welty family. School was strict, which meant tightly laced teachers who expected perfection and didn't mind using physical force to promote mistake free work. Between her parent's high expectations, the demands of her teachers and her insatiable hunger for books, Welty was destined to become a success.
In her book, One Writer's Beginnings, Welty uses anecdotes and childhood memories to explain not only the natural progression of events that lead her personally to become a writer, but also exactly what it takes to be a writer.
The book is split up into three distinct sections. The first if full of stories from her childhood. The second portion tells of her annual family expeditions from Mississippi to Virginia and finally to Ohio. These trips provided endless opportunities to practice her observational skills and collect scenes and memories that would later prove valuable in her writing. The third section comes closest to offering instructional writing advice.
If you are looking for a good read and an interesting autobiography, this book will meet your needs. Welty offers insights into the time period and uses language to make all of her characters seem attractive and important. I think that Welty intended this book to be an inspiration to aspiring writers though and, it is in that niche that it most serves its purpose.
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By JK on Oct. 27 2001
Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of Eudora Welty since discovering her short stories as a teenager many, many years ago. I wrote her what is probably a typical teenager's fan letter, and she was kind enough to reply and answer some questions I had in detail. I have since read all of her work, and still consider it a disgrace that she never won the Nobel Prize--she deserved it.
This little autobiography is a great read even for those unfamiliar with Miss Welty's work--it's that engaging. As with her fiction, she is particularly adept at providing the atmosphere in the South where she lived her life. By the time I finished reading of her childhood I felt like I had a true and realistic rendering of her family, told with the tenderness and dignity that marks all of her work.
I've always found Welty's friendship with Katherine Ann Porter to be an interesting facet of her early career, since Porter assumed the role of mentor. Miss Porter was, and is, well known for her beauty and was a 'free spirit' when it came to lovers. Regardless of her other attributes, there is no doubt that Eudora was quite ugly to look at, and certainly led a very different personal lifestyle than did Miss Porter. I hope that one day a biographer will further detail their relationship.
As an aside, I have a dual-tape recording set of Miss Welty reading some of her short stories. She had what must be one of the most pleasant and engaging reading voices I've ever heard. If the reader ever has a chance to purchase her on tape, buy it.
I've long felt that Eudora Welty took on the title of the pre-eminent American female writer of the last century following the death of Willa Cather. This little jewel of a book will delight her old fans and possibly create some new ones.
A great gift idea for anyone enjoying biographies.
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