Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Great Short Stories by Ladies from the American South

"He"  by Katherine Anne Porter (1927, 8 pages)
"A Visit of Charity" by Eudora Welty (1941, 5 pages)
"The Geranium" by Flannery O'Connor (1946, 5 pages)

Three Wonderful Short Stories by
Ladies of the American South

I know it  is considered in some very trendy quarters to be no longer correct to refer to a collection of women as "ladies"  but in the case of Katherine Anne Porter (Texas), Eudora Welty (Mississippi) and Flannery O'Connor (Georgia)  I cannot bring myself to refer to them in any other way.      Each  produced world class treasures in the novel and the short story.    I have posted on all three of these writers already so I just want to let people know about these three stories I have recently read.    The stories are a bit "regionalized" in the same way Irish short stories often are but don't let that stop you from reading these stories!

"He" by Katherine Anne Porter.    Porter (1890 to 1980-Indian Creek Texas) is probably best known for her 1962 novel Ship of Fools.   She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for her collected short stories.   The received opinion is that, the same is true of all the writers of today,  her short stories are her best work.    (There is additional background information on her in my prior post on her.)   "He" is a heart breaking story about a mother's love for her mentally challenged son.   The family in the story is struggling to survive in the face of some of the worse times in American history.    The setting is small town Rural Texas just before the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.    This story, told in the third person, is so beautifully written it is almost painful.   As the story opens we learn that the mother cannot help but love him more than her other two children.    He is also a burden on her and her husband.   I think one of the biggest concerns of parents of mentally challenged children lies in their fears about what will happen to them when the parents are gone.     Who will take care of their mentally handicapped ten year old son when he is twenty, thirty, forty or fifty.   When he is stronger than his father?   Can or should he be prevented from reproducing?    Porter does a masterful job of making us feel the parents concerns.   We also see how having such a child can change (and sometimes wreck) a marriage.    At the end of the story we have to decide if the right thing has been done for the right reasons.   This story will make you think.

You can read "He" HERE

"A Visit of Charity" by Eudora Welty (1909 to 2001-Jackson, Mississippi-Pulitzer Prize 1973) is a favorite of book bloggers world wide.    She was a good friend of Elizabeth Bowen and spent some time at her castle in Ireland (I would loved to have listened in at tea time!)    This story is set in small town Mississippi in the 1940s in  a time when all of the negative stereo types about the American South were reality.    As it opens a young girl is making a visit to a charity home for old people.    She is going so she can earn "points" in her Girl Scout type of group. What is great about this story is the interaction of the girl, the two very old women she visits (they are roommates) with each other and the women with the girl.    It is up to us to decide what the girl gets from the visit.   (There is additional information on Welty in my prior posts on her.)

You can read "A Visit of Charity" Here.    Lakeside Musings has an excellent post on this story.

Of these three writers, I guess Flannery O'Connor's star is now shining brightest.   Kenzaburo Oe treats her work as a near holy text.    O'Connor (1924 to 1964-Savannah, Georgia) was the author of the well regarded novel Wise Blood but it is her short stories that will bring her immortality.   (There is additional background information on O'Connor in my prior posts on her.)

"The Geranium" was O'Connor's master thesis at the famous Iowa Writer's Academy.   I think is one of her very first published stories.    She was only 21 when she wrote it.    I concede it does not have the full power of some of her more mature work but it is for sure worth reading and not just to see her first short story (but to lovers of the short story, that is really a good enough reason).   The story centers on an elderly man that has been rescued from a charity home by his adult daughter.    The fun of this story is in the depiction of the relationship of the father and his daughter and his interaction with his enviornment.   The story is also about race relations and it makes use of words that may rule it out as a class room story.

You can read "The  Geranium" HERE

Mel u


JoAnn said...

I do enjoy southern authors, but have yet to read Porter. Need to rectify that soon - another great post!

Mel said...

Hi Mel U

I have not read work by these "ladies" yet, but thoroughly enjoyed reading this thoughtful post. Also, for what it is worth, I feel the use of the word ladies is wonderful, just like "gentlemen" has a specific meaning that of course we still should be able to use when we think it fits. Many thanks :)

Bev Hankins said...

I love Porter! I've read all her short stories...I still have her novel Ship of Fools on my TBR list. O'Connor is less my cup of tea and I really need to give Welty a try!

Great review! Stopping by from Read my Review Here's my America theme: