Letter from the Time Machine

Eudora Welty (1909 – 2001) was an American novelist and short story author. She stood atop of the absolute highest peaks in the world of fiction writing.

Her novel THE OPTIMIST’S DAUGHTER won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty was the first living author to have her works published in the prestigious Library of America series. Among a long, long list of accolades, she was also awarded the Rea Award for the Short Story for her lifetime contributions to the American short story.

Heavyweight writing territory to be sure. You or I may not have heard of her before, but mega-successful writers can’t all be Shakespeares, Hemmingways and Chopper Reads in the name recognition department, now can they?

If there was any doubt about Eudora Welty’s status as a literary icon, the house where she lived in Jackson, Mississippi is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Gadzooks, it’s even open to the public as a house museum for the literary tourists of this world.

But well before all that future success, there was naturally a time when Eudora Welty was just like any of the tens-of thousands of other aspiring, unknown writers. That meant the daily/weekly chore of sending out her material in the blind hope that someone, somewhere might show some interest.

In March 1933, in an attempt to secure some writing work, 23-year-old Eudora sent this impossibly charming letter to the offices of The New Yorker magazine and gently laid her cards on the table.

It’s difficult to imagine a more endearingly written introduction to one’s talents and for that reason it’s both a surprise and disappointment to learn that her perfectly formed plea fell on deaf ears, initially at least. Thankfully, The New Yorker later rectified their error and Welty went on to write numerous pieces for the publication.

Here is Ms Welty’s spankingly amusing and completely fetching query letter, written in March 1933 –

March 15, 1933

Gentlemen, I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.

I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world.

For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, Santa Claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.

As to what I might do for you — I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works — quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph.

How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning — a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.

There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.

Truly yours,

Meanwhile, over in HAPPY DAYS land…

7 thoughts on “Letter from the Time Machine

  1. She’s certainly got an ability to be both serious and entertaining all in one. I love where she said I’m anxious for an apartment – give me the job please so I have a place to live!

    Also the part where she wanted to write a little in the morning and a little at night, then went on to talking how she would also work like a slave if necessary. Lazy and a workaholic all in one!

    A very entertaining letter with a few references that I didn’t actually get but I’d hire her because she has a certain wit that would make her interesting to work with. I like a little sarcasm mixed in with seriousness.

    Thanks Glen. As always, I look forward to reading what ‘The Shack’ has to offer each fortnight. The author has a similar writing style to yourself – which makes for entertainment – all that anyone is really after when reading (in my opinion anyway).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much Matt for the compliments and enthusiasm.
    Readers like you truly make a topic come alive.
    The Pulitzer Prize winner mentioned in this SIMPSONS clip is of course Eudora Welty.
    She’s even referred to by name right at the end.

    Like

  3. A woman after my own heart. Not comparing myself in any way, shape, or form with Ms. Welty, but that sounds like the kinda letter I might write in order to get a job, lol. Much more sophisticated and academic than I am today, but if I’d lived then, hopefully I’d be as whip smart and sassy.

    I especially love: “Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state.”
    and
    “I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple.”
    Thanks for posting about such an interesting author and person.
    BTW, how many Happy Days have come out? I’m not sure if I’m still receiving notices…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eudora Welty (1909 – 2001) is a writer I’d not heard of before, so reading her application letter was a marvelous introduction. As regards HAPPY DAYS: THE FIRST FIVE SEASONS blog, it has been a somewhat exasperating experience to accept the fact that, despite many attempts to bring the site before the eyes of the internet’s #1 search engine as well as pursuing numerous lines of investigation as to why this has not happened so far, GOOGLE has still not registered the existence of the site – a site which is now 6 months old.

    Both SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK and LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE were recognized by GOOGLE searches in less than 10 days following their inceptions. I don’t have to tell you Stacey what GOOGLE’s ‘blind spot’ means for the ease with which people can find the site. In essence, HAPPY DAYS: THE FIRST FIVE SEASONS is invisible to anyone apart from the handful of people I have sent personal invitations to asking them would they be interested in following the site.

    My hopes were for this site to be bigger and attract a larger following than LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE, but so far this is far from a reality, for the reason mentioned. As a matter of fact, next week I plan to make an appointment with a local computer guru who knows a thing or two about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools. Wish me luck on that front.

    Sorry to go on about it, but as you can read, it’s a bit of a raw nerve not to mention baffling mystery with me at the moment. Anyway… this Friday Episode 9 “(Breaking Up is Hard to Do”) will receive the write-up treatment for it’s presently small but dedicated (lol) audience.
    https://happydaysthefirstfiveseasons.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah! Gotcha. Well, meeting with someone who knows all about a SEO person will undoubtedly grow your audience exponentially. Very smart to get info like that! I’ve done some sporadic research into SEO, etch, and more or less come away still baffled. So….good luck! I have a good feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

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