Tuesday 5 January 2016

Eudora Welty's southern speech makes me wonder what my speech is and who else speaks it.

On New Year's Day, which was wet, as usual, I read The Robber Bridegroom start to finish, with a sleep in the middle. This being a fairy tale in old-time Mississippi, they do a lot of sleeping too, a lot of thieving and hiding and disguising which adds up to justice in the end. Then I watched the 1958 film Cat on a hot tin roof, also a southern tale but with sarcasm, self-hatred and a powerful smell of mendacity. Two days later I read Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty's second book. This southernness can wrap you or rend you. Eudora Welty wraps you.

Tennessee Williams happened to be born in Mississippi and Eudora Welty spent her whole life there. She has a full sense of place, of the small towns around the Old Natchez Trace; he inhabits his family's and his own dysfunction, which you can do anywhere. Both worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the late 1930s, he in New Orleans, she across the state of Mississippi.

Welty and Williams make a fine team. Comfort and anguish in a southern climate. Delta Wedding is luxuriant even when its characters are momentarily having a hard time, though Welty's people do not seem to sweat. Cat on a hot tin roof is so savage, so sweaty, the luxury is seeing it enacted and knowing it isn't you.

No comments :

Post a Comment