lunes, 13 de octubre de 2014

Delta Wedding

Delta Wedding (The Library of America, 1998)
by Eudora Welty
USA, 1946

So a mere one post after having made a semi-big deal about the group protagonist thing and the amazing sense of place to be found in Ousmane Sembene's 1960 Les bouts de bois de Dieu, I find I can say nearly the same thing about Eudora Welty's 1946 Delta Wedding (in her Complete Novels [New York: The Library of America, 1998, 89-336]), another ensemble affair but one set not in Senegal but in the American South, sans any speculation about Welty's Marxist politics and/or her filmmaking interests possibly informing her storytelling style of course.  In fact, it's a shame that Welty's novel mostly takes place on a Mississippi plantation because it would have been awfully convenient for me to recycle parts of that previous review.  In any event, I guess I should start by noting that Welty's moving drama about finding a place in the world--in marriage or out of it, among family, at peace with yourself--is framed by the arrival of nine year old Laura McRaven at her cousins' house the week that young, coltish Dabney is set to marry young, racist Troy.  Little Laura, who has recently lost her mother to an early death, looks for and eventually finds a measure of solace during the time she spends among her exuberant relatives, and the narrative payoff of that particular story thread was way worth it to me by the end even though there were a couple of moments in the middle where I had to roll my eyes with impatience at the manic theatrics of one too many batshit old maid aunts or the marital dramz between George Fairchild and his annoyingly high maintenance runaway wife Robbie, etc.  From a stylistic rather than a plot perspective, though, Welty does several things here that make me look forward to reading more by her in the future.  For starters, I'm pleased to concur with Emily of the late, great and sorely missed Evening All Afternoon blog that one of the strengths of Delta Wedding is Welty's Woolf-like ability to get inside her characters' heads--or as Emily put it in her fine piece on the novel, "Like Virginia Woolf (of whom Welty strongly reminds me), Welty astounds with her ability to communicate the unexpected yet crucial importance of certain crystallized moments in time - the tiny catalysts that prompt a blaze of emotion or insight out of all proportion to the initial tiny spark - and the deep, quiet pools of reflection that unfurl within her characters at the oddest moments."  This point shouldn't and really can't be overstated in my opinion, in particular in light of the various characters young and old whose POV are being juggled at any given point in time.  Another of the novel's strengths is the way its author balances the interiority touched on above with frisky wordsmith descriptions of characters who are the possessors of "shrimp-pink toes" (217) or one who's said to be "wrinkled in her soul" (244).  Finally, to return to Delta Wedding's sense of place and its intersection with that part of the story having to do with finding a place in the world and Emily's point about Welty's skill in communicating "the unexpected yet crucial importance of certain crystallized moments in time," I was very much impressed by the stealth with which the novelist ultimately produced a chiaroscuro effect on the canvas of her wedding story by applying a few lightning flash references to drowning pools, fatal accidents on the train tracks, a knife fight among field hands, and having a child parrot a school lesson explaining that "Yazoo means River of Death" (283).  A novel of more than usual warmth and overflowing with ebullience but an ebullience profoundly haunted and hounded by death.

Eudora Welty (1909-2001)

13 comentarios:

  1. Great, great book. I'm not sure that she ever wrote another novel this stylistically adventurous. As insightful, humorous, warm, etc., yes. I haven't read The Robber Bridegroom, though, for no good reason.

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    1. Tom, I owe thanks to you as well as Emily for the primary motivation to read Welty since I recently reread your comment on that five year old Delta Wedding post of Emily's. Thanks for providing another great book recommendation and for encouraging me to make sure I check out more Welty with your enthusiastic comment here. Maybe I'll check out The Optimist's Daughter before I return the LOA anthology back to the library.

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  2. Now I really regret giving away my copy of this book unread, several years back. This is why culls are never a good idea!

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    1. Victoria, I agree that culling is problematic. Space is so overrated anyway! Hope you get another chance to read this at some point, though; I suspect it might be right up your alley in some respects.

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  3. This sounds terrific, Richard. I haven't read Eudora Welty, but I'm much more likely to try her in the future as a result of your review. Love the images of the batshit maiden aunts and high-maintenance runaway wife...

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    1. Jacqui, Delta Wedding is a very Southern Southern novel.

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    2. Jacqui, I imagine that most other people would find those aspects of the novel more amusing than I did. Otherwise, what Tom said! It was a fine read, though, and I imagine it would be a particularly rewarding reread as well. Hopefully I'll get the chance to put that to the test someday.

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  4. Welty keeps cropping up as a someone I surely should have read by now but somehow haven't... SOON.

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    1. I can relate, Séamus, esp. because Welty is somebody I'd previously (and wrongly) dismissed as being too "old-fashioned" for many years. She's no Bernhard or Bolaño or Céline, of course, but I hope to read more by her now that I've come to my senses.

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  5. I'm glad I've got it. It sounds amazing. Yes, indeed -Emily is missed. I never thought that Welty had a "Woolfish" quality. I might have seen more like Flannery O'Connor. Maybe all they got in commin is being from the Deep South.

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    1. Caroline, I'd rate it somewhere between very good & amazing based on my first read but I think others might be even more receptive to it & I hope to read it again at some point to concentrate on matters of style. As far as the novel's/novelist's Woolf-like qualities, what I meant was what Tom described on Emily's post as Welty's "use of limited third person - swiftly moving from one character's thoughts to another, sometimes just for a line or two." Very impressive--reminiscent of Mrs. Dalloway in terms of the transitions between thoughts. Based on this one novel alone, Welty is a lot more compassionate toward her characters than either Woolf or Flannery O'Connor are. Anyway, hope you enjoy Delta Wedding when you get around to it!

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  6. "A novel of more than usual warmth and overflowing with ebullience but an ebullience profoundly haunted and hounded by death."

    That really does sound exactly like my kind of thing. I very much liked "The Golden Apples", and I like Southern literature in general. I'll drop hints to my wife about the LoA edition of Welty's novels for this Christmas...

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    1. I've yet to try Welty's short stories, Himadri, but I came this close to buying a collection of them earlier tonight because I enjoyed Delta Wedding so much. Anyway, luckily for both of us--but maybe not your wife!--there's another LOA volume dedicated to Welty's short stories (and a few of her essays). Kind of glad she so was so prolific now that I finally got around to trying her out!

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