Thursday, July 12, 2012

Delta Wedding - Eudora Welty

This wound up on my reading list because of an intriguing post over on Evening All Afternoon

"I've been writing a lot lately about feminist musicologistSusan McClary and her ideas about the need for an alternative narrative practice. McClary goes in search of a mode of storytelling that does not dwell in a land of perpetual desire, of constant striving for a climax or resolution which, once achieved, spells the end of the story (the so-called "phallic" or "heroic" narrative arc), but that instead stresses pleasure over desire, that glories in what McClary calls a "voluptuous 'being-in-time' quality" - an examination of what we have and who we are, rather than what I want and who I would rather be."
which made me really curious to see what a novel without resolution would be like.

Delta Wedding is a week in the life of a large family in the Mississippi delta. One of the daughters is getting married and outlying family are coming for the wedding. There is very little plot. One of the characters, Laura McRaven, is 9 years old, has recently lost her mother, and is back for the wedding and quite possibly to stay permanently rather than living in a far away town with only her father. Another character, George, is dealing with the fact that his wife Robbie has just run away and it isn't entirely clear why, or whether she is going to come back. Then there's Dabney, the bride, who is marrying 'beneath' her, and it becomes obvious that she doesn't actually know Troy all that well, and that they don't actually spend much time together. The day after the wedding where several different groups head into town to run errands not realizing that it is Sunday and all the stores will be closed. So many little things which in an ordinary book would drive the typical big problem, increasing miscommunication, eventually leading to huge misunderstandings, and finally some sort of resolution.

Instead life goes on. Things which could lead to huge misunderstandings instead get resolved, often with very little effort because the people involved really do love one another and are very used to living together. Issues get sorted out, problems get solved at least temporarily, and life goes on. Laura gets invited to stay on the plantation with her aunt & uncle, and of course says yes (it is what she's expected to say after all), but then thinks to herself that she probably won't stay. But of course she is only nine, and her aunt will almost certainly convince her father to let her stay, and she will probably be quite happy there...and you can sort of see how she is going to wind up belonging in two places at once.

It is pretty fascinating. There are so many people and so much activity that there is very little privacy. Everyone is quite aware of what everyone else is doing, and yet it is easy to wander off on your own, and everyone definitely has their own private thoughts. It is a comfortable place where there are lots of adults to share the responsibilities for taking care of all the children, and yet there are so many different children that it won't be particularly easy to see when someone is having a problem but not being really noisy about it. There will be a lot of benign neglect along with any number of assumptions about what particular children want to be doing...which won't coincide with what they actually want. Especially with Laura. And yet the fact that she will have a place there, will belong to this family is likely going to be really good for her, even though she won't have the undivided attention that she might get living in town with her father.

I'm not really sure what I thought of this. It is beautifully written and was enjoyable to read once I got over trying to anticipate where the story was going (it wasn't going anywhere, it was just hanging out and enjoying the scenery). I read it up at the cottage, and was a little bit depressed from time to time...which might be because of the book, or the fact I wasn't sleeping all that well. I'm not sure I would read it again, and yet I am finding myself thinking quite a bit about it.

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