Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sense of place (1)

In an interview with Gayle Graham Yates, Eudora Welty made the following observation:

Most everything I write - really, everything - my stories come out of life. Not from books. I don't mean that anybody would steal from books, but I mean they are not inspired by books.

This is an interesting contrast to Cormac McCarthy’s assertion that: “the ugly fact is books are made from books.” This suggests quite a difference in approach, and yet the authors are very similar in as much as location is a key factor in their work. McCarthy’s sense of place, especially in Suttree and the southern novels, but even in the western novels like Blood Meridian and even The Road, is famously precise, to the extent that Wes Morgan can identify specific locales. And Welty, in the same interview, says:

I think probably in the case of everything but The Robber Bridegroom, I simply wanted accuracy and faithfulness to a time and place.

She also explains in the interview how she invented a typical Mississippi locale so that she could write a Depression-based story centring on the family unit. This sense of place is a distinctive feature of southern writing, something that seems to inhabit the writers, almost without them being conscious of it. Welty explains further, for example:

I never thought of anything like this when I was writing the stories. Not in an analytical way. I was aware of what I was doing, but not analytically. Even what I say about choosing the place. It was just such an instinctive choice, and then it was dropped because I was into the story.

I am fascinated by this sense of place, and how it seems to shape some writers.

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