Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Eudora Welty

American Novelist, Short-Story Writer

"All serious daring starts from within."

"Children, like animals, use all their senses to discover the world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way all over again."

"The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order... the continuous thread of revelation."

"Learning stamps you with its moments. Childhood’s learning is made up of moments. It isn’t steady. It’s a pulse."

"Integrity can neither be lost nor concealed nor faked nor quenched nor artificially come by nor outlived nor, I believe, in the long run denied."

"Beware of a man with manners. "

"A good snapshot stops a moment from running away."

"A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."

"All experience is an enrichment rather than an impoverishment."

"Beauty is not a means, not a way of furthering a thing in the world. It is a result; it belongs to ordering, to form, to aftereffect."

"Any room in our house at any time in the day was there to read in or to be read to."

"Art is never the voice of a country, it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction."

"A whole tree of lightning stood in the sky. She kept looking out the window, suffused with the warmth from the fire and with the pity and beauty and power of her death. The thunder rolled."

"Both reading and writing are experiences — lifelong — in the course of which we who encounter words used in certain ways are persuaded by them to be brought mind and heart within the presence, the power, of the imagination."

"But how much better, in any case, to wonder than not to wonder, to dance with astonishment and go spinning in praise, than not to know enough to dance or praise at all; to be blessed with more imagination than you might know at the given moment what to do with than to be cursed with too little to give you — and other people — any trouble."

"Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page."

"Each day the storm clouds were opening like great purple flowers and pouring out their dark thunder. Each nightfall, the storm was laid down on their houses like a burden the day had carried."

"Don't give anybody up. . . or leave anybody out. . . . There's room for everything, and time for everybody, if you take your day the way it comes along and try not to be much later than you can help.--Spoken by Jack to Gloria"

"Even as we grew up, my mother could not help imposing herself between her children and whatever it was they might take it in mind to reach out for in the world. For she would get it for them, if it was good enough for them--she would have to be very sure--and give it to them, at whatever cost to herself: valiance was in her very fibre. She stood always prepared in herself to challenge the world in our place. She did indeed tend to make the world look dangerous, and so it had been to her. A way had to be found around her love sometimes, without challenging that, and at the same time cherishing it in its unassailable strength. Each of us children did, sooner or later, in part at least, solve this in a different, respectful, complicated way."

"Every writer, like everybody else, thinks he's living through the crisis of the ages. To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most."

"Fantasy is no good unless the seed it springs from is a truth, a truth about human beings."

"For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love."

"For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading."

"Fiction shows us the past as well as the present moment in mortal light; it is an art served by the indelibility of our memory, and one empowered by a sharp and prophetic awareness of what is ephemeral. It is by the ephemeral that our feeling is so strongly aroused for what endures, or strives to endure."

"For all of them told happenings like narrations, chronological and careful, as if the ear of the world listened and wished to know surely."

"For the night was not impartial. No, the night loved some more than others, served some more than others."

"For the source of the short story is usually lyrical. And all writers speak from, and speak to, emotions eternally the same in all of us: love, pity, terror do not show favorites or leave any of us out."

"Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion."

"From the first I was clamorous to learn."

"Greater than scene is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame."

"Henry James said there isn't any difference between the English novel and the American novel since there are only two kinds of novels at all, the good and the bad."

"He's such an old bachelor that the way he cleans out his fireplace is to carry the ashes through the house, shovel-load at a time, and dump ‘em out through the front door."

"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."

"Human life is fiction's only theme."

"I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within."

"I don’t think we often see life resolving itself, not in any sort of perfect way, but I like the fiction writer’s feeling of being able to confront an experience and resolve it as art, however imperfectly and briefly—to give it a form and try to embody it—to hold it and express it in a story’s terms."

"I believe so. In its beginning, dialogue’s the easiest thing in the world to write when you have a good ear, which I think I have. But as it goes on, it’s the most difficult, because it has so many ways to function. Sometimes I needed to make a speech do three or four or five things at once—reveal what the character said but also what he thought he said, what he hid, what others were going to think he meant, and what they misunderstood, and so forth—all in his single speech. And the speech would have to keep the essence of this one character, his whole particular outlook in concentrated form. This isn’t to say I succeeded. But I guess it explains why dialogue gives me my greatest pleasure in writing."

"I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them--with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself."

"I don't know whether I could do either one, reading or writing, without the other"

"I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of day, was there to be read in, or to be read to. My mother read to me."

"I live in gratitude to my parents for initiating me--and as early as I begged for it, without keeping me waiting--into knowledge of the word, into reading and spelling, by way of the alphabet. They taught it to me at home in time for me to begin to read before starting school."

"I read library books as fast as I could go, rushing them home in the basket of my bicycle. From the minute I reached our house, I started to read. Every book I seized on, from "Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue at Camp Rest-a-While" to "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," stood for the devouring wish to read being instantly granted. I knew this was bliss, knew it at the time. Taste isn't nearly so important; it comes in its own time."

"IÂ’m a short-story writer who writes novels the hard way, and by accident. You see, all my work grows out of the work itself. It seems to set its form from the idea, which is complete from the start, and a sense of the form is like a vase into which you pour something and fill it up. I have that completely in mind from the beginning, and I donÂ’t realize how far I can wander and yet come back."

"Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading."

"Insight doesn't happen often on the click of the moment, like a lucky snapshot, but comes in its own time and more slowly and from nowhere but within."

"I wanted to read immediately. The only fear was that of books coming to an end."

"It doesnÂ’t matter if it takes a long time getting there; the point is to have a destination."

"It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they come from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them — with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself. Still illiterate, I was ready for them, committed to all the reading I could give them."

"If you haven't surprised yourself, you haven't written."

"It is our inward journey that leads us through time – forward or back, seldom in a straight line, most often spiraling. Each of us is moving, changing, with respect to others. As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge. Our living experience at those meeting points is one of the charged dramatic fields of fiction."