Here’s Eudora Welty reading her story “The Worn Path,” from this collection:
I first read Welty in college in an intro to American Lit class, specifically “A Petrified Man” from this collection, which remains one of my very favorite stories of all time. It’s funny, it’s weird, and it’s crass. It’s irreverent in just the right way.
Other stories from this collection hit the same kinds of spots. The stars of this one included “A Petrified Man,”Why I live at the P.O.,” “Old Mr. Marblehall,” “Powerhouse,” and “A Worn Path.”
This collection isn’t a held together one at all, meaning these don’t have to be read together or in any kind of order. Welty put out about as many story collections as novels, and hit just right at the part of the American literary history to make a go of it in that way. These stories are from the early 1940s and feel much more polished and modern than that. Especially “A Petrified Man” and “Powerhouse” you see someone tapping into a kind of more liberal and libertine future that would definitely be awaiting American culture in decades to come. “Powerhouse” is about a Jazz star who rollicks and jives in the ways you might recognize rock stars in the subsequent decades and “Petrified Man” feels about like it predicts the entire career of Flannery O’Connor.
Here’s an excerpt from my new favorite from this short collection:
“The son is the worst of all. Mr. and Mrs. Marblehall had a child! When both of them were terribly old, they had this little, amazing, fascinating son. You can see how people are taken aback, how they jerk and throw up their hands every time they so much as think it. At least, Mr. Marblehall sees them. He thinks Natchez people do nothing themselves, and really, most of them have done or could do the same thing. This son is six years old now. Close up, he has a monkey look, a very penetrating look. He has very sparse Japanese hair, tiny little pearly teeth, long little wilted fingers. Every day he is slowly and expensively dressed and taken tot he Catholic school. he looks quietly and maliciously absurd, out walking with old Mr. Marblehall or old Mrs. Marblehall, placing his small boooted foot on a little green worm, while they stop and wait on him. Everybody passing by thinks that he looks quite as if he thinks his parents had him just to show they could. You see, it becomes complicated, full of vindictiveness.”