Monday, August 15, 2005

Eudora Welty, Losing Battles

First off, let me admit that I didn't finish reading this one. I got about a third of the way through it and, tired of waiting for something to happen in the story, I moved on to other things.

The "story" (such as it is) is divided into 6 parts, and involves an extended Mississippi family that gathers to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Granny Vaughn. Along the way, we are treated to a series of typically screwy southerners a la Flannery O'Connor as each one tells story after story about the family and various members of the community, much of which is intended to be amusing. The problem that I had with the novel, however, was that these stories weren't enough: I was waiting for something to actually happen!

Now, I've read two other Welty novels -- Delta Wedding and The Opimist's Daughter -- both of which I thought were good. And while Losing Battles had its moments of intended hilarity, I just wasn't picking up on an actual narrative to make the time I was spending with this book worthwhile. After about 100 pages or so, I felt like I "got" the idea of what the author was trying to achieve and . . . well . . . was ready for more.

One aspect of the novel that I must admit liking, however, was the effect of reading all that southern dialogue over an extended period of time. Somehow, you get a sense of the poetry behind southern dialect, and its cadences remain with you long after you've finished reading for the day -- much like the effects of reading Milton or Joyce or Proust for several hours at a stretch. Welty's command of southern dialogue (and dialect) is admirable, which is likely why my friend Donna (who, incidentally, listened to this novel on audiotape) loved the novel!

From what I understand, the "story" kicks-in in Part Six. But you have to wade through those first five Parts to get to it.

I hope the "story" is worth it . . .

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