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This report is taken from PN Review 142, Volume 28 Number 2, November - December 2001.

Eudora Welty Alice Wooledge Salmon

A black-and-white photo shows an unembellished, short-sleeved, grey-haired woman in, perhaps, the late 1960s, surprised by delight while seated at the large, upright Royal on which she typed, we'd like to bet, scores of the stories, novels, and essays which made her one of America's best - and best-loved - twentieth century writers.

Eudora Welty has died at the age of 92. 'Human life' was her fiction's 'only theme', the Southern state of Mississippi that fiction's rooted place, her writing's essence the human insight drawn from recognition of the point at which 'people reveal themselves. You have to be ready', she wrote; 'you have to know the moment when you see it', because, thinks one of Eudora Welty's fictitious characters, 'one moment was enough for you to know the greatest thing'.

If a photo can capture that transient flicker, when synergy of face and expression, body, gesture, setting bring a startling glimpse of the individual's story within the concrete, abstract, complex whole, Eudora Welty snapped laughing with welcome from behind her upright Royal superbly achieves the elusive condition.

In 1994, the English writer Paul Binding used this picture for the dust jacket of his discerning 'portrait of [Eudora Welty's] creative spirit', entitled The Still Moment; the force of the photograph mirrors the pictures Miss Welty took of Mississippi's rural have-nots during the 1930s' Depression, while otherwise employed by President Roosevelt's nation-reviving Works Progress Administration. The sheltered young woman travelled her native state - ...


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