All residual notions of Eudora Welty as a provincial spinster have been put to rest with the recent publication of Suzanne Marrs' comprehensive work, Eudora Welty: A Biography
-- the only one the late great writer from Jackson, Miss., ever authorized. Although Welty (who died in 2001) was a well-loved author and decorated icon, little was ever known about her private life. This, of course, was much to the chagrin of nosy scholars and critics, but just as the charming Welty would have it. In 1983, Marrs and Welty began a friendship that lasted almost 20 years. Marrs' unique position as both literary scholar and close friend made her the perfect candidate to write about Welty. Through access to innumerable photographs, private and unpublished papers, letters to friends and contemporaries, interviews with friends and family -- not to mention their years of conversations and companionship -- Marrs has written what critics call an extremely "authoritative and definitive" biography. Perhaps more importantly, it is one that is both perceptive and insightful, written with the love of a friend. Marrs had plenty of practice writing Welty's biography in the form of scholarly works, most notably One Writer's Imagination: The Fiction of Eudora Welty
, in which she intermingled textual analysis and biographical influences, trying to determine essentially how the author's life influences what and how she writes. This time around, in Eudora Welty: A Biography
, the focus is on the life behind the writing, but Marrs continues to deftly ground biography in archival facts and textual clues. The impact on how readers and scholars will now be able to look at Welty's writing is not to be underestimated. A more expansive, informed interpretation of Welty's writing, one not mired down by false proclamations of small-town ignorance and provinciality, will be possible, reawakening readers to Eudora's graceful sophistication and rare insight.
5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17
Beaucoup Books, 3951 Magazine St., 895-2663; www.beaucoupbooks.com
5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18
Pass Christian Books, 101 E. Beach Blvd., Pass Christian, Miss., (228) 452-7399