PERSONAL: Female. Education: University of Oklahoma, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Millsaps College, 1701 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39210. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Millsaps College, Jackson, MS, professor of English. Welty scholar-in-residence, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1985–86; consultant to British Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Eudora Welty, 1987; lecturer in Russia and France.
AWARDS, HONORS: Phoenix Award for Distinguished Welty Scholarship.
The Welty Collection: A Guide to the Eudora Welty Manuscripts and Documents at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1988.
(Editor, with Harriet Pollack) Eudora Welty and Politics: Did the Writer Crusade?, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2001.
One Writer's Imagination: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2002.
Eudora Welty: A Biography, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Suzanne Marrs, who was a personal friend of Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Eudora Welty, has written a biography and other books based on Welty's life and work. Welty, who died at the age of ninety-two in 2001, was known for her finely crafted short stories, which often combined humor with poignant depictions of the human search for love. Welty approved of Marrs's biography project and gave her access to her personal papers and her closest friends. Marrs's book Eudora Welty: A Biography was published a few years after another biography of Welty by Ann Waldron. The latter book, according to Elizabeth Bennett in the Houston Chronicle, "was a good introduction to Welty's work but put so much emphasis on what Waldron considered Welty's homeliness that many critics dismissed it as meanspirited." Marrs's book, however, prompted Charles Ealy to remark in the Dallas Morning News, "It's heartening to report that a new biography of Eudora Welty captures the humorous and unconventional spirit of one of the South's greatest writers."
Marrs analyzes Welty's work in her critical study One Writer's Imagination: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, and she presents essays discussing the author's political impact in Eudora Welty and Politics: Did the Writer Crusade?, coedited with Harriet Pollack. In the biography, she steers away from discussing Welty's writing to delve more deeply into the author's personal life. Her intention is to show the key events and the people who shaped Welty's life and informed her writing. Marrs uses Welty's letters and excerpts from her work to help paint a detailed portrait of the author. Much of the correspondence sheds light on Welty's remarkable relationship with John Robinson, a writer of much less talent. Their connection was intense, long-lasting, and romantic in tone, but Robinson eventually dashed Welty's hopes of marriage when he moved to Italy to live with a male companion. Later in life, Welty had another troubled romance, this time with Ken Millar, who wrote mysteries under the pseudonym Ross Macdonald. Millar was married, but he and Welty met occasionally and exchanged frequent correspondence.
Some reviewers felt Marrs's close friendship was perhaps a stumbling block in writing the book. Bennett mentioned the author's "excessive attention to the minutiae of Welty's daily life" as being of questionable value. A reviewer for People found the author-subject friendship "a double-edged sword," as Marrs's writing is consistently "polite." According to Pam Kingsbury in America, however, "Marrs is to be commended for her impeccable research …; her biography is likely to become the touchstone for all scholarly discussion of Welty's work and life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, August 15, 2005, Pam Kingsbury, review of Eudora Welty: A Biography, p. 25.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 14, 2005, Pauline Mayer, review of Eudora Welty.
Dallas Morning News, August 3, 2005, Charles Ealy, review of Eudora Welty.
Houston Chronicle, August 19, 2005, Elizabeth Bennett, review of Eudora Welty.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2005, review of Eudora Welty, p. 626.
New York Times, August 14, 2005, Francine Prose, review of Eudora Welty, section 7, p. 21.
People, September 12, 2005, Natalie Danford, review of Eudora Welty, p. 60.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 14, 2005, Elizabeth Bennett, review of Eudora Welty.
Publishers Weekly, June 13, 2005, Dorothy Allison, review of Eudora Welty, p. 42.
Seattle Times, August 19, 2005, Michael Upchurch, review of Eudora Welty.
Southern Literary Journal, fall, 2004, Jon Smith, review of Eudora Welty and Politics: Did the Writer Crusade?, p. 167.
Washington Post Book World, August 14, 2005, Jonathan Yardley, review of Eudora Welty, p. 2.
Bookreporter, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 15, 2005), Tony Leuzzi, review of Eudora Welty.
Millsaps College Web site, http://www.millsaps.edu/ (October 15, 2005), biographical information about Suzanne Marrs.