Writer and scholar Edward Francisco has one test for a perfect short story: Could any word be removed from it and have it not be altered for the worse? By that test and any other, he says, Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is perfect.
In the story, originally published in 1941, an elderly woman takes a long journey across the Mississippi Delta country to the city to get medicine for her grandson.
“If you want to feel good about being a human being, that’s the story to read,” Francisco says.
A reading and discussion of “A Worn Path” will kick off “Daring Greatly: The Life and Short Fiction of Eudora Welty,” a three-part weekly discussion series at Lawson McGhee Library, Tuesdays, Feb. 13-27, from 6:30-8 p.m.
Francisco, who is the writer in residence at Pellissippi State Community College, will lead the series. On Feb. 20, Francisco will discuss the comic story “Why I Live at the P.O.” The series will end with Welty’s “Where Is The Voice Coming From?” It’s a story Welty wrote in one sitting, after hearing about the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
It’s written from the imagined killer’s point of view, and “is one of the most chilling stories you will ever read –and I mean that literally,” says Francisco. “You can’t read it without getting chills.”
The Welty series is part of a larger library series, Reading Close to Home, which focuses on the works of Southern authors. Nelda Hill, the assistant director of public services for the Knox County Public Library, says that the idea for the offering began with a month-long discussion of Flannery O’Connor in January 2017, which Francisco led.
“It was a huge success with at least 50 people attending each of the sessions,” Hill says. “It was a fairly diverse group with people of all ages and many walks of life.”
In November, Francisco led a second series focusing on William Faulkner.
“In my opinion, many people are yearning for connection to their fellows and for guidance, truth and wisdom,” Hills says, “And some of them are turning to great literature. Ed is an engaging and challenging teacher.”
Francisco has taught at Pellissippi State for 28 years and taught at the University of Tennessee before that.
“I’ve been teaching long enough that I can’t remember not teaching,” he says.
Although he has heard other writers say that they could not write and teach, his writing career has thrived, and he believes the practice of each has enhanced the other. His poetry and short fiction have been published in more than 70 journals and magazines. He also has authored novels and plays and co-authored a textbook on Southern literature, “The South in Perspective.”