First let me say that Welty’s writing is one of the very few I recognize almost instantly. She has a unique style and never falters from it.
I felt The Optimist’s Daughter was light on actual story, yet I read through it simply for the writing. Welty is a staunch believer in the writing rule of ‘less is more.’ There isn’t a frivolous word in her prose as she uses each to its fullest advantage.
One may wonder how I can appreciate her work as much as I do, yet give the work a mediocre rating. According to Amazon’s review terms, three-stars means, ‘it’s okay’. Not great, not horrible. Keeping in mind that a review is nothing more than one person’s opinion, when I give a review, I consider a few factors. The obvious: depth of characters, style, story, et cetera. The non-obvious: the way the story makes me feel and what I take away from it.
As I mentioned, Welty’s writing is tight. There is no fluff. She tells a pointed story and never wastes the reader’s time. In my opinion, there is too much fluff in contemporary fiction and I find myself skimming or outright skipping the long, needless passages that do nothing to advance or enhance the story. But, I’m simply not a fan of literature. I find the verbiage and the stilted dialogue boring. I much prefer something along the lines of Jonathan Tropper, crisp, fresh, witty. That certainly doesn’t make literary writing bad, just not my preferred taste, so I would be a hypocrite to give the book a glowing review simply because it’s a Pulitzer prize winning work of fiction. You know what they say, ‘read wide and read well.’ So I do.
Now, if contemporary writers with their wit and humor could take a page out of one of her books and cut the filler used to reach a predetermined word count, we’d have the best of both worlds.