I’ve gotten to the point that I can almost guarantee that when the name “Eudora Welty” comes up, Bob is going to say, “That’s one of my greatest regrets, not interviewing her.” There are a couple of others who prompt a similar response: Kurt Vonnegut, for one… and this conversation inevitably leads us back to another female southern writer, Harper Lee. (Ms. Lee, if you’re reading, please know we’d love to have you on the show ANYTIME.) But I think Bob feels a particular loss about missing out on a conversation with Eudora Welty because she was truly Bob’s kind of writer: personal, complex, and, dare I say it? Southern. I grew up hearing about Eudora Welty from my mom, who loves to read Welty’s short stories. My mom isn’t a southerner, but she did grow up in a small town, and has remarked to me that while Jackson, Mississippi isn’t a small town, she’s always felt that Welty understood what life was like in a place where everyone knows everyone.
I was surprised to learn that Welty put her powers of observation to work as a photographer, as well as a writer. Tom Frail’s article in Smithsonian Magazine was news to me, and I was struck by the ease of Welty’s subjects. The people Welty photographed looked as natural and unaffected as if she had been one of their own. And although I certainly didn’t know Eudora Welty personally, I do like to think that she was the kind of woman who knew how to help people feel comfortable… that is, as long as they didn’t suspect they might end up as fodder for her next story. Here’s a link to read Tom Frail’s article, and to see more of Eudora Welty’s photographs. The images used here are courtesy Eudora Welty LLC and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.