The Critical Response to Eudora Welty's Fiction

By Laurie Champion | Go to book overview

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away

Hamilton Basso

Although the South has had enough of a literary going over to satisfy even the most demanding student of the subject, a trio of novels about the territory have recently appeared to prove that the going over is still going on. The chorus of enthusiasm that has greeted the publication of Eudora Welty's new novel, Delta Wedding," the first of these three books, made me wary of it at first, but now I'm doubting after having reread the book, so much did I like it, whether the chorus was loud enough. I'm equally uncertain that it has been praised for the right reasons. Miss Welty, generally speaking, is most frequently praised because she can write. There's no doubt about that. She can do things with the English language that have all the unpredictable wonder and surprise of a ball of mercury rolling about in the palm of one's hand. But the point, it seems to me, is not whether Miss Welty can write but what she has done with her writing. For my part, she has done enough to produce as fine a novel as any contemporary American author has turned up with in recent years.

Miss Welty's novel is one in which, as the saying goes, nothing happens. There have been several novels of such a nature recently, but, unlike most of them, Miss Welty's book is not a prolonged exercise in arty ineptitude. Although nothing "happens" in Delta Wedding (a little girl comes to visit her relatives for the wedding of her cousin, she is caught up in the swirling life of the family, and the wedding takes place), everything happens. I am sure that Miss Welty didn't write her book to prove the truism that character is action just as much as action is character, but that, along with plenty of other things, is what she has done. Risking a guess, I'd say that Miss Welty has spent a great deal of time reading Henry James; risking a flat statement, I'd say that she has looked as intelligently into the workings of human beings as any modern writer who has come along since that unpleasant snob

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