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One Writer's Beginnings: Lectures in the History of American Civilization [Paperback]

Eudora Welty
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 1 1991 William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization (Pb) (Book 1983)
**** A reprint of the Harvard University Press edition (1984), a William E. Massey, Sr. lecture in the history of American civilization (1983); and recommended by BCL3. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

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Among the most beloved of American writers, Eudora Welty's stories and novels have entertained us for over half a century. Here, in her memoirs, she writes with her usual candor and grace about how a writer's sensibilities are shaped. As compelling as her stories, as witty as her personality, as finely honed as her fiction, Welty's account of her life is a powerful and fulfilling read. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


In these lectures, thoughtful attention is given to a great many experiences...It is all wonderful...The parts of the book that are about her family...are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present...from Miss Welty to her audience.
--William Maxwell (New Yorker)

Beguiling as autobiography and...profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write serious fiction...It may, at that, not be possible to convey to someone else that mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory and experience become art. Yet, in these few pages, Eudora Welty seems to have followed the trail...to the richness of her maturity with a gracious and warming clarity. (Los Angeles Times Book Review)

[Eudora Welty] is to be looked for, not in blatant self-advertising confidences, hints and nudges, but in the metaphorical clues she drops, which are the exposures of a disciplined sensibility. From them we can deduce a history of a life. One might say her writing, spun out like the web of a 'noiseless patient spider,' is not about but of herself. At bottom, the beauty and astonishment of her fiction, as Emerson might say, is 'all design.' For it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free.
--Daniel Aaron (London Review of Books) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen of Southern Writing Jan. 7 2002
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Eudora Welty Dec 7 2001
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography, Welty Style Oct. 27 2001
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great work, beautiful Welty Oct. 4 2001
Growing up in Jackson, Ms and having seen some of the same things Ms. Welty has seen and experienced made this piece of literature that much more personal and meaningful to me. I think this work is a great example of beautiful writing and storytelling. It truly helps you understand what shaped Eudora to make her the literary master she was. This book shows us that literacy should play an important part in every home and school. If we immerse ourselves in literature, just look at what we could become.
I find that her division of the book into three sections extremely useful. You can focus on certain things in her writings to look for from the section headings. It was interesting to see her use such beautiful writing and description of everyday events. It makes them stand out and show exactly how these mundane things can shape individuals. Her use of her surroundings to inspire her and help her be creative and inventive inspires me to take a look around and see what I can build from.
This should be considered a great piece of literature. I can see her love of literature and language in her storytelling. The world has truly lost a great writer and individual.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Soothing as a Southern Breeze
This is not a "how to" book about the writing of literature, but a short autobiography of a famed writer's growing up years. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2001 by Kenneth Blum
4.0 out of 5 stars A Southern Jewel
Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings is an autobiographical book about Welty's life in the South.
The lifestyle of the South opened Welty's eyes to everything she writes in... Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001 by Julia
4.0 out of 5 stars A Southern Jewel
Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings is an autobiographical book about Welty's life in the South.
The lifestyle of the South opened Welty's eyes to everything she writes in... Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Tale of a Jackson Lady
After reading this book, I can appreciate the loss the literary world must feel at the death of such a Southern lady this past Summer. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2001 by PRESTON C BURT
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving autobiography..............
This is Eudora Welty's story of growing up in early 20th century Mississippi. She shows the early influences on her writing by explaining how she learned to "listen" (her... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001 by Margaret Fusina
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad life.
I was required to read "Thirteen Stories" by Eudora Welty so I decided to read this book too. Big mistake. Read more
Published on June 12 2000 by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Welty Reading
More than an autobiography, more than a journal of the writing process, Welty has written--has braided with words--a thematic disclosure of self-discovery that runs deep. Read more
Published on April 20 2000 by Mark Valentine
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Delight From a Southern Treasure!
Eudora Welty shares stories about people, places and events that shaped the person, as well as the writer, she became. Read more
Published on April 13 1999 by mhsmith@erols.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent example of an outstanding author's trove of memory
I read this book many years ago, having received it as a birthday gift from a friend who knew of my appreciation of and respect for this giant in southern writing. Read more
Published on April 5 1999 by "tollfree"
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