Thursday, September 07, 2006

all the sediment of loneliness

In The New York Review of Books, Lorrie Moore takes a long look at Eudora Welty.

Sixteen years ago I was in Jackson, Mississippi, and the owner of the bed- and-breakfast at which I was staying gave me Eudora Welty's address at 1119 Pinehurst Street, across from Bellhaven College. Miss Welty loves visitors, I was told, and I should feel free and welcome to go knock on her door. I was surprised that Welty was being openly offered up this way as a public site to a casual tourist fresh from Faulkner's Rowan Oak. For a minute I saw Welty as perhaps a kind of political prisoner, held hostage by southern graciousness—perhaps even the Jackson Chamber of Commerce—for I knew that no writer in her writer's heart welcomes impromptu visits from people she doesn't know. But a writer's heart is often dressed up in the local protective coloring of her address. And no writer is entirely a writer—she is also many other things. But the writer part—the accident of mind that prompts the private, secreting away of phrases and ideas—is never understood the way a neighborhood might imagine, because it is never really glimpsed, though this is seldom acknowledged.