Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Early Escapades (copy)

Did you scrapbook as a child? Did you save photos, art work, poems, cards, mementos and then place and paste them in themed order? Silly hobby really, but if you ever start, it can be addictive. Oh, and the pleasure you get later, looking back at the smiling tinsel teeth of youth.

What if you were given the opportunity to look at the childhood keepsakes of someone famous? With the new book edited by Patti Carr Black titled Early Escapades, we are given more than mementos; we are privy to her earliest works. We get a taste of young Eudora’s humor, wit and turn of phrase. This precocious child, then lively teen, was placing pen to paper as early as the age of eleven.

The book opens with editor Black’s essay on Miss Welty’s early years. She provides the background story to Eudora’s pen-and-ink sketches, poems, articles and short stories. Then, like an accomplished scrapbooker, Black arranges the works in timeline fashion, pleasing to the eye and fun to read.

Young Eudora’s first story, “The Glorious Apology,” is a hoot. We see our hero, Fitzhugh H. Green, struggling with the meaning of life and a wife feigning interest. One pictures Nick and Nora of the Thin Man series. Welty hams up the thirteen chapters with magazine cut-outs and imagined reviews like pretend critic Andrew Volstead, a man who had this to say about the book, “Never heard of it.”

In the 1930s Miss Welty contributed feature columns to the Jackson Daily News. In one such article titled “Vacations Lure Jacksonians,” she demonstrates a delightful wit, “In the days of the cave man, the vacation was extremely simple. Only the men went on them. No man is going to drag a woman 40 miles.”

In interviews with Miss Welty, she never admitted to being a poet. She probably means a serious poet because she did love to write limericks and rhymes. For a friend traveling to Chicago via Illinois Central, she made a limerick for each station on the way. One starts off, “There was an old girl of Winona. Who lived in a pongee Kimono.”

If anything, do pick up this book to see the hilarious caricatures in the back. In 1933 Miss Welty drew them to cheer-up a homesick friend. They include notables like Faulkner, Mae West, Hitler, and Eleanor Roosevelt. They will surely have the same cheering effect on you.

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