The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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February 12, 2011

Unexpectedly, comfort reading...

I'm not sure anyone (including me) would think of literary biography as comfort reading, but can I tell you how much I am enjoying reading about Eudora Welty? And how much I like knowing more about her?

During summers of the early thirties, the group gathered frequently at the Welty house to drink and talk and laugh and listen to music -- literature and the theater and the New York scene filled their conversations, and they loved hearing both classical music and jazz. They also engaged in activities that {her friend} Lehman eventually labeled 'camp.' When Jackson ladies, for instance, advertised that their night-blooming cereuses would be in flower on a given night and invited one and all to witness the annual bloomings, Eudora and her friends attended. They went on to name themselves the Night-Blooming Cereus Club and took as their motto a slightly altered line from a Rudy Vallee song:  'Don't take it cereus. Life's too mysterious.' Years later, in The Golden Apples, Eudora would use the 'naked, luminous, complicated flower' as an emblem of life's beauty and its fragility, and she would have a character repeat what one Jackson Lady had said about the cereus blossom, 'Tomorrow it'll look like a wrung chicken's neck.'
from Eudora Welty:  a biography, by Suzanne Marrs

I'm about a third of the way in, time enough to read about her childhood and college experiences, her time as a young woman in New York, her father's tragic death, her love and longing for an unattainable man, and her first trip to Europe, and the growing body of photography and fiction that she creates along the way.  But mostly it's wonderful to read about her. I met Miss Welty, just for a minute, when I was in college, when she came to the university art gallery for a ceremony honoring a new postage stamp with her picture on it. I haven't read her fiction in a while (now, I'm longing to).

I'm also enjoying Elizabeth Buchan's Separate Beds.  It's very good,  as I knew it would be, even though reading about a family in crisis, and a 50-year-old who may never find another job, is a little bit of a harder task than reading about Eudora.

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Frances said...

I can totally buy into literary biography as comfort read! Book geek voyeurism on one level, added insights into an author's work on another. And Eudora Welty is definitely an author I have been thinking about reading lately. All springing from a conversation about regional literature.

Vintage Reading said...

I like that extract you posted. I do like a good literary biography. I've only read one Welty novel and I don't think I've got the measure of her yet - I need to read more.

Thank you for visiting!

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