Eudora Welty is one of the American South’s most distinguished writers. Born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi, she depicted life with humor and insight, possessing a keen eye for detail, particularly when it involved human interactions. Her prose incorporates Mississippi history, memory, folklore, and simple beauty–yet she never romanticized her subjects or the South. Toni Morrison, author of Song of Solomon, Sula, and Beloved (among others), said of Welty that she wrote “about black people in a way that few white men have ever been able to write. It’s not patronizing, not romanticizing — it’s the way they should be written about.”
Delta Wedding, Welty’s first novel, was published in 1946. Set in 1923, on the surface it portrays a family preparing for a wedding; however, underneath the novel explores much more, revealing personalities, motivations, and desires. According to the Eudora Welty Foundation website, “the book was originally criticized as a nostalgic portrait of the plantation South, but critical opinion has since counteracted such views, seeing in the novel, to use Albert Devlin’s words, the “probing for a humane order.””
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Playwright and author Anton Chekhov used expressive dialogue and vivid prose to draw his audience deep inside what on the surface might appear ordinary or mundane. Born in 1860 to a former serf, he had few fond memories of childhood, apart from the kindness of his mother. He graduated from medical school in Moscow in 1884, becoming the primary financial provider for his parents and younger siblings. It was during this time, while still practicing medicine, that he began to publish his work as a journalist and to write comedic sketches. In 1888, he published his first significant work, the autobiographical short story, “Steppe,” about the journey of a young boy through Ukraine. Today, Chekhov is known best for short stories such as “The Lady With The Dog” and for his masterpiece, Uncle Vanya. The realist play, to quote the Encyclopedia Britannica, is “a superb study of aimlessness in a rural manor house.” Seemingly simple, yet irresistibly compelling, it portrays middle class life of 19th century Russia. The ending is a masterful example of how writing need not be complicated or contrived to convey drama. If you haven’t read it–or seen it–you’ve missed one of literature’s great works.
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