Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Must the Novelist Crusade?

I'm off to Canterbury Woods for day two of a four-day residency. More on this wonderful school soon. I want to leave you today with some thoughts from Eudora Welty's essay "Must the Novelist Crusade?"

I re-read it this morning, as I'm working with some folks at Georgia State University on wrapping up an interview I did with the Eudora Welty Society about how I came to know and love Eudora Welty's work and how I eventually named a character in THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS after her. The interview will appear in the next Eudora Welty Newsletter -- I'll let you know about it when it appears.

But in the meantime, I received a query from Dr. Pearl McHaney about one of my answers-to-hard-questions:

"Is the essay you mention reading and using as a model during the discussion of civil rights and Freedom Summer the essay 'Must the Novelist Crusade?'"

Yes, it is, Dr. McHaney.

The entire essay can be found here. It's good for me to read it again as I embark on a novel that takes place in 1962. I don't want to crusade. I want to tell a good story. Here are a couple of plum bits for me to remember:

"Writing fiction is an interior affair. Novels and stories always will be put down little by little out of personal feeling and personal beliefs arrived at alone and at firsthand over a period of time as time is needed. To go outside and beat the drum is only to interrupt, interrupt, and so finally to forget and to lose. Fiction has, and must keep, a private address. For life is lived in a private place; where it means anything is inside the mind and heart. Fiction has always shown life where it is lived, and good fiction, or so I have faith, will continue to do this."

And one more passage I love:

"Indeed, great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience."