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Losing Battles
by Eudora Welty

6/15/98 6:08:47 PM 7/2/98 4:00:05 AM
Losing Battles by Eudora Welty
This book is downright baroque. It took me a lot longer to read it than I anticipated, because each sentence is so full. I had to go slowly to appreciate the images conjured up and the stories related. Who was it that said Losing Battles reminded them of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream? I can certainly see where that might come to mind. The characters are larger than life, bold and enlarged somehow, so that the reader seems to imagine a hyper-reality. There is a surreal dreaminess that conjures up fairy-tales. The opening paragraph sets the tone:

“When the rooster crowed, the moon had still not left the world but was going down on flushed cheek, one day short of the full. A long thin cloud crossed it slowly, drawing itself out like a name being called. The air changed, as if a mile or so away a wooden door had swung open, and a smell, more of warmth than wet, from a river at low stage, moved upward into the clay hills that stood in darkness.”

Let’s hear what you all think.

6/16/98 9:00:08 AM 7/2/98 4:00:06 AM
Just 100 pages into Losing Battles finds me of two minds: On the one hand, this is delightful in atmosphere and the characters are SO alive! On the other hand, there are times I wish Miss Welty hadn't even learned the word metaphor! Within the first two or three pages, I guess she must have thrown out 50 or so, some of them feeling pretty strained.

But, I labored on, and am glad I did. Y'all will probably have this discussion wrapped up before I finish, I have company arriving tomorrow, but I'll be reading reading these posts along with you anyway.

It sort of tickled me that I began this book while at my family reunion; I had sort of forgotten the story by then!


6/16/98 9:56:31 AM 7/2/98 4:00:06 AM
Sherry and all,
I'm reading, I'm reading! Sherry, like you, I find that LOSING BATTLES is taking me a bit longer than I expected. I hope to be finished by the end of the week.
It was Howard Moss who wrote about L.B. that it was as if Mark Twain and the Shakespeare of ""A Midsummer Night's Dream"" had collaborated. Moss was a poet, critic, and longtime poetry editor of ""The New Yorker."" The review of LOSING BATTLES (and of Welty's Pulitzer Prize winner, THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER) appears in Moss's book of essays WHATEVER IS MOVING (Little Brown, 1981).

6/16/98 12:31:49 PM 7/2/98 4:00:06 AM
I'm still slogging away at LOOSING BATTLES, but I fear I may be losing the battle. I'm up to page 103 and nothing's happened yet but a lot of jumping around and shouting.


6/16/98 1:40:29 PM 7/2/98 4:00:06 AM
I know exactly what you mean about the metaphor business. Some of the strangest ones I've ever read. I think they are one reason it took me so long to read the book. I felt like I'd be reading along and then run headlong into a metaphor. It would knocked me down and I would have to shake my head, blink, and think real hard before I could pick myself up and keep reading. After a while, I was sure she knew exactly what she was doing. It was almost like she was playing little jokes. The feelings conjured up by these odd verbal gymnastics was one of magic and dreaminess for me. Being from the South helped me out a lot. I know exactly the kind of sash that was on that wedding dress and exactly what type of hem they were taking up because my mother sewed the same way for me.

6/19/98 9:21:31 AM 7/5/98 4:00:07 AM
Whoops, I think the Battle is over. Less than 200 pp in, but last night I just couldn't pick it up again. I'll try again, no doubt, but I've become so bored that this book has lost the little momentum it had going in the beginning. (And still, I know if I don't get it read, you all will start discussions and make me regret it!)

The thing that seemed to most influence my unwillingness to stick with it last night is that the judge's car is STILL on Banner Top. I think for me that car has been up there for about a week! Could be bad timing, because just after he drove it up there, my house guests arrived, and reading time shrank to almost nothing.

For a look at what I did enjoy last night, see my new note below.


6/19/98 11:43:59 AM 7/5/98 4:00:07 AM
Couldn't agree with you more, Tonya. LB seems to be taking forever to get nowhere. Meanwhile everybody is ""leaping"" and ""jumping"" and ""yelling"" and ""shouting"" and doing everything but just plain but just plain ""going"" and ""saying"". I was so looking forward to this one, but it's sure not taking.


6/20/98 6:32:08 PM 7/6/98 4:00:04 AM
An interjection:

You guys are reading this book too fast. Slow it down, savor it, indulge in it like you would a guilty pleasure.

And, if I remember my Welty at all, look for subtext. Not everything is as beautiful as the surface of the writing would appear to attest to. Welty is a child of Faulkner's, and the similarities are there -- though Welty's vision isn't nearly so bleak.


6/21/98 10:37:05 AM 7/7/98 4:00:03 AM
Okay, here goes, my first post on the Internet Constant Reader board!!
I just finished LOSING BATTLES a few days ago and had many of the same feelings a hundred pages into the book that Tonya and Ruth had. All of that denseness of prose and the multitude of characters were pretty daunting. However, about halfway through, it all starts interconnecting and coming together. Miss Julia's story hooked me totally into it. Her motivations for teaching and the mistakes she made were classic. And, she also appeared to be a metaphor for all progress and outside influence on this little enclave. Did anyone else have specific reaction to her?
Also, I've only read two of Welty's books prior to this, DELTA WEDDING and THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER, but I didn't have the impression that she usually wrote about such grinding poverty. I also didn't think that she had much personal experience with it and yet she seems to have it absolutely right.
And, what did you think of Jack? What a little floating bit of optimism he seemed to be! The one piece of the new generation that was going to stick around and they were all heaping every burden possible onto his shoulders.
And what did you think of Gloria? There seemed to be all sorts of complicated routes going on there. She seemed to be sort of a symbol of everyone who wanted to leave, following the new route of divorcing oneself from family to the point that she was an orphan herself, and yet everything, Jack included, was pulling her back.
I agree with Marty that there's lots more under the deceptively simple exterior than immediately meets the eye.

6/21/98 10:52:08 AM 7/7/98 4:00:03 AM
Here goes my first post, too, Barb!

In the beginning of LB I was lulled into a peaceful reverie by Welty's smooth words & descriptions. Then I was annoyingly startled by all the yelling, everyone vying for my attention. As my attention drifted, I tried to Skim the book, but missed many subtle issues, and I had to backtrack & read with more focus.

I'm glad I did. These characters were richly contrived. My favorite was not Jack, the prodigal son who took pride in his role atop the family Pedestal, but Gloria who seemed such an outsider, with such good sense (and how did she know that husband so well, after spending so little time with him??). And what a twist to find out she might just belong in that family by blood ties...which are more valued...than by marriage ties?

I agree, Barb, that Miss Julia's story held an interesting key. What a role she had in these peoples' lives, for a ""bit part"" so to speak!

Nonetheless, the judge's car was on that hill way too long for me! That was one long 24 hour period. I was tired in the end, but the more I consider the characters and their heritage. I realize Welty did a masterful job of tying it all in. Despite the noise!


6/22/98 6:54:12 PM 7/8/98 4:00:12 AM
Just how many ""losing battles"" were there in this story? I certainly felt that the effort to get the judge's car off the mountain was one!

I can think of a few others, but I'll hold out till some of you put in your two cents!


6/22/98 7:21:37 PM 7/8/98 4:00:13 AM
The parts about the teacher in LOSING BATTLES are what have stuck with me the most in the years since I read it. In real life, Welty was blessed to have some gifted teachers and this character is surely a worthy tribute to them.
I still can't read the scene about the class holding hands in the whirlwind without crying. And at every opportunity I quote the great one-line description, ""She would teach you to within an inch of your life if you gave her the least bit of encouragement.""

>>Dale in Ala.

6/23/98 10:17:36 AM 7/8/98 4:00:14 AM
Ah yes, Dale, I remember you using the quote before. I didn't connect it when I read it in the book. Didn't you love the contrast between how she was viewed by those outside Banner and how she was viewed by those inside it? Actually, there was some contrast between the way individuals viewed her inside Banner, but I was most struck by those who wanted her to simply *leave them alone.* Like what are we going to do with this zealous soul who actually wants us to learn and simply won't leave us alone about it? And, even those who had great respect for her, such as the Judge, didn't bother to come back to her until she was dead and they'd lost her for good.
This is one of those books that is resonating more with me after I finished it than during the actual reading. I think these characters are going to be popping into my head at intervals.

6/23/98 10:27:53 AM 7/8/98 4:00:15 AM
Dale, Barb, etc.
See? This is what I meant when I said y'all would make me sorry I stopped! Now, Bridget Jones's Diary is finished, I'm probably going to have to finish this book. And I'll miss the discussion. But when I quit, and that car was still on Banner Top, I was not amused.


6/23/98 11:17:46 AM 7/8/98 4:00:15 AM
Barbara: I definitely agree, re: LOSING BATTLES resonating more in one's head after the sound and fury of it (entertaining as they are) die down.
The teacher is a great example of a prophet being without honor in his/her own country. A part of human nature, I guess.
But I also saw a quote last week from some philosopher who said, ""The only truly educated person is one who is perpetually willing to change,"" and it knocked me for a loop. The older I get, the more I can sympathize with people who steer clear of zealous and enthusiastic souls, however life-giving their missions may be. Sometimes the ol' enlightenment biz is just too doggoned tiring. G My loss, I'm sure.

>>Dale in Ala.

6/24/98 11:36:46 AM 7/8/98 4:00:19 AM

I think I'll still remember this if you come back within the next month or so to discuss it. And, it sounds like Dale will as well. I'm kind of surprised at how strong an impression it is leaving with me. If it hadn't been a CR book, I'm pretty sure that it would have gone flying across the room after the first 100 pages or so.

I'd be interested to see if you have the same impression if you finish it.


6/24/98 11:42:08 AM 7/8/98 4:00:20 AM
Excellent point, Dale. Zealots were a lot more interesting to me when I was in my 20's.

Unfortunately, a lot of what zealots are selling looks vaguely familiar to me these days. I have the feeling that I've seen it before with a different name. This especially happens a lot to me at work (in education) and I have to be careful not to reject good stuff out-of-hand.


6/29/98 11:25:24 AM 7/12/98 4:00:03 AM
It would seem that Losing Battles rec'd only 9 days discussion, little of it as deep and analytical as we've frequently seen over on Prodigy. Is this to do with this format? Have we learned enough about using this BB that it won't tend to stymie discussion of a book like 100 Years, for instance?


6/30/98 11:01:37 AM 7/13/98 4:00:10 AM
For both the CR and CC June selections, I think that making the transition between the two boards (Prodigy and the WebBoard)probably accounted for some of the shorter discussions. June is also the month when many schools get out, and end-of-the-year activities (graduations, etc.) abound. For my part, I'm a bit embarrassed because I suggested ""Losing Battles,"" and then a big freelance project came crashing down on my shoulders, and I haven't been able to finish the novel. But I will! --g--
Both ""Losing Battles"" and ""Man and Superman"" are denser than a book like, say, ""An American Childhood,"" which was a quick read. Maybe others reading both got a little slowed down, too. I think that's okay. I bet little kernels of discussion will pop up throughout the summer!

6/30/98 11:39:39 AM 7/13/98 4:00:10 AM

I tend to think that only certain
books engender the kind of discussion that
100 Years inspired. Even when we were back on the P Classic Boards, we didn't get that kind of discussion on every book. I do think that Losing Battles had the potential for that, but I don't think that most people liked it that much or that enough people read it.

Personally, I got familiar enough with the WebBoard format to get into discussion pretty quickly. I still have lots more about it to discover, I think, but that doesn't interfere.


6/30/98 8:48:43 PM 7/13/98 4:00:11 AM
I'm amazed, too, at how the discussion of Losing Battles petered out. There were plenty of issues to hammer out, don't you think?

But, folks are on vacation, etc and maybe aren't reading as much?? I don't think it has anything to do with the webboard, because most of us have found our way over here.

Some of us hang out at the old site, too, but it's been a bit lackluster.

Maybe the next book will fare better.


7/2/98 12:31:21 AM 7/14/98 4:00:09 AM
Susan, I tend to think you're right, but I wanted to see if others thought so. It has certainly been a busy time for me, with not much rest in sight. But it started out looking like a discussion, and fizzled to my surprise. Now I'll probably never get back to this book.


7/2/98 12:37:11 AM 7/14/98 4:00:09 AM
Barb, True, 100 Years was an exceptional discussion. Weren't you one of the BBNM users? Do you find yourself, when you're on the WB, worrying about the phone being tied up?

Seems that between me and Jerry these days, we're logged on most of the time. I think soon we'll switch to an ISDN, then it'll be official: our real lives are over!


7/2/98 12:44:11 AM 7/14/98 4:00:09 AM
I really don't know if there were issues to hammer out in Losing Battles, I gave up on the book while the Judge's car was still on Banner Top. I only read about a third of it, I think.

The reason I wondered is (mostly) because of the BBNM so many people were accustomed to with Prodigy. Preparing posts off-line kept a lot of CRs comfortable with composing long replies, and reading many, many long notes, with no worry about busy phone lines.

My Prodigy account will expire in a few days, and I'm just being sure. Since this got rolling, though, I hardly even log into Prodigy.


7/2/98 12:31:09 PM 7/15/98 4:00:06 AM
Tonya, you mean this ISN'T real life?


7/2/98 11:00:09 PM 7/15/98 4:00:06 AM
Marty -- Your note on slowing down the reading of Losing Battles and savoring the text made me think this may have been the problem I had with this one when our book group read it two years ago. I do think I had more trouble with this than other Welty work which I have sampled. Dottie

7/8/98 3:35:28 AM 7/20/98 4:00:05 AM
On 7/2/98 12:37:11 AM, Tonya Presley wrote:
>Barb, True, 100 Years was an
>exceptional discussion.
>Weren't you one of the BBNM
>users? Do you find yourself,
>when you're on the WB,
>worrying about the phone being
>tied up?
>Seems that between me and
>Jerry these days, we're logged
>on most of the time. I think
>soon we'll switch to an ISDN,
>then it'll be official: our
>real lives are over!
Tonya -- LOL -- geez -- does this mean I haven't had a real life since before I wandered into this group? We have had a computer only line for a long while now; with a computer oriented electrical engineer husband -- well, it is just a part of life to keep gathering the ""toys"" that appear. I haven't figured out much of this web thing but haven't given up on it yet either. I keep wondering what I will have to work with once we are moved to Europe. I don't want to be out of touch entirely with this great book oriented place! Dottie


8/5/98 5:03:01 PM 8/18/98 4:00:04 AM
I started Losing Battlesin May, and finished it on Monday evening of this week. Four months! Not even Les Miserables took me that long. I did get a freelance job (writing theater reviews for Microsoft’s Sidewalk guide) during this time, but still...
First things first. I love Eudora Welty. That’s why I suggested this book for the C.R. list. It looked hilarious and had been sitting unread on my shelf for several years. Plus, I fondly remembered the C.R. discussion of The Optimist’s Daughter. Oh, and, I had also read Howard Moss extolling the book as a collaboration between Shakespeare and Mark Twain. That sealed it. We’re there, I thought.
Wrong. Losing Battles and I just didn’t click. Plenty of the dialogue is really, really funny, but I had a hard time with the central running joke, the Judge’s car stuck on Banner Top. It irritated me to no end. The Miss Julia Mortimer parts were wonderful, but they threw a weird light on the rest of the book, making all the Beechams, Renfros, et al., look like idiots. And, as an aside, did anyone else find that watermelon scene (where the aunts mashed Gloria in the face with pieces of one) as bizarre as I did?
So, the battle with Losing Battles has been won at long last, but I have probably disqualified myself from ever suggesting another book for the Constant Reader list! (G) At any rate, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to occasionally fall out with favorite writers. On the page, of course!

8/5/98 7:33:35 PM 8/18/98 4:00:04 AM
Speaking as one who lost the battle of Losing Battles, I never could picture from Welty's description exactly how that car got stuck on the top of the mountain.


8/6/98 8:35:22 AM 8/19/98 4:00:05 AM
I couldn't figure that out either. Maybe one of the other Losing Battles readers can explain it to us! I could tell Welty could picture it in her head completely, but I never did see it clearly. By the way, the last section of the book, like the first, is a long saga about the car.

8/7/98 8:47:36 PM 8/20/98 4:00:11 AM
Oh, Susan -- I had trouble with this one when our women's league book group read it and most of them didn't finish it and didn't like it for many reasons -- including the ""I just don't get it"" in reference to various parts of the story. I think I will try to read it again one day just to find out if a new avenue of understanding opens for me the second time around . I cannot tell you how much better I feel now that I am in such esteemed company as Ruth and you.

8/17/98 10:28:45 PM 8/30/98 4:00:05 AM
greetings SUSAN..

i know exactly how you feel.... you are anticipating a very good read and it never happens.... on to the next author!!!

your work sounds let us know about the articles you are writing..

gail..hp..a p r...anticipating seeing you soon in WASHINGTON, D.C.!!!


I agree with Marty that there's lots more under the deceptively simple exterior than immediately meets the eye.
The parts about the teacher in LOSING BATTLES are what have stuck with me the most in the years since I read it. In real life, Welty was blessed to have some gifted teachers and this character is surely a worthy tribute to them.
Dale in Ala.

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