Ann Patchett gives the 2021 Eudora Welty Lecture
Ann Patchett gives the 2021 Eudora Welty Lecture Credit: Heidi Ross

Eudora Welty Lecture: Ann Patchett

Sponsored by the Eudora Welty Foundation, the annual Eudora Welty Lecture is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where authors present an original talk on their literary background as a tribute to Welty’s classic One Writer’s Beginnings. Previous featured authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Salman Rushdie, and Jesmyn Ward. Now, as one of the foremost contemporary American authors based in the South, Ann Patchett is a natural choice for this year’s Eudora Welty Lecture. After the March 2020 edition was postponed due to COVID-19, the annual lecture returns this month. But, instead of taking place in person, the library has improvised to create an on-demand recording of the lecture, which viewer can watch at their convenience. Recorded in June, Patchett’s virtual lecture, titled The Nightstand, takes place in what is now Welty’s home museum in Jackson, Mississippi. A key figure in American letters since the early 1990s, Patchett’s eight published novels and nonfiction work have received widespread popular success and critical acclaim. A champion of independent bookstores, the writer co-founded Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2011. These Precious Days, a compilation of Patchett’s essays—including her Welty lecture—will be released by HarperCollins in November. Similar to Welty’s short stories, Patchett takes her readers through a myriad of different scenarios. From the Catholic home for unwed Southern mothers featured in The Patron Saint of Liars to the high-stakes hostage crisis in Bel Canto to the complex family drama of Commonwealth, all her works contain strikingly written episodes of human connection. Patchett again returns to this theme in her lecture as she explores her family background and writing career. The lecture is available on demand through June 30, 2022, via the Folger Shakespeare Library’s website. $15.