One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, Eudora Welty's novels and stories blend the storytelling tradition of the South with a modernist sensibility attuned to the mysteries and ambiguities of experience. In this Library of America volume and its companion, Welty explores the complex abundance of southern, and particularly Southern women's, lives with an artistry that Salman Rushdie has called "impossible to overpraise." In a career spanning five decades, she chronicled her own Mississippi with a depth and intensity matched only by William Faulkner.
Complete Novels gathers all of Welty's longer fiction in one volume for the first time. In The Robber Bridegroom (1942), based on a Grimm fairy tale, legendary figures from Mississippi's past, such as the keel-boat captain Mike Fink and the savage outlaws the Harp Brothers, mingle with Welty's own imaginings in a free-ranging and boisterous fantasy set along the Natchez Trace.
The richly textured Delta Wedding (1946), set against a backdrop of rural Mississippi in the 1920s, vividly portrays the intricacies of family relationships in its account of the sprawling Fairchild clan--with their "family trait of quick, upturning smiles, instant comprehension of the smallest eddy of life in the current of the day, which would surely be entered in a kind of reckless pleasure"--and their Delta plantation Shellmound.
Edna Earle Ponder's unrestrained and delightfully absurd monologue, superb in its capturing of the rhythms of country speech, shows Welty's humor at its idiomatic best in The Ponder Heart (1954), a flight of invention culminating in a murder trial that becomes an occasion for exuberant comedy.
The monumental Losing Battles (1970), composed over fifteen years, brings Welty's imaginative gifts to the largest canvass of her career, rendering a Depression-era family reunion with mythic scope and ebullient comic vigor.
The volume concludes with The Optimist's Daughter (1972), a taut and moving story of a woman rediscovering the world of her childhood as she comes to terms with her father's death. Often considered her masterpiece, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1972.
New York : Library of America, 1998.
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