MOST PEOPLE on the Internet know about Eudora. The e-mail program, that is.
Not so many, however, know that Eudora got its name after the Southern writer Eudora Welty.
The program was created by Steve Dorner in 1990 at the University of Illinois in Urbana. By then he worked for NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications), and the first version of the program, which took about a year to develop, consisted of about 50.000 lines of code.
Dorner had a vision of making e-mail easier to send and receive than it was then, more user-friendly if you will. He also had a vision of a more widespread use of e-mail, something that is beginning to happen now.
"When I was in college, I read Eudora's story 'Why I Live at the P.O.'," Dorner explains to me in an e-mail message.
"The story stuck with me", Dorner says. "When it came time years later to name the program, I remembered the title, rearranged it a bit to 'Bringing the P.O. to where you live,' and used it for the program's motto. Then I named it Eudora."
Eudora Welty, this great Southern writer - by some proclaimed Nobel prize candidate - was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1909. She still lives there, in the family house. She wrote in the local newspaper as well as for the Jackson radio station, before her stories began to appear in magazines like The Southern Review, Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker.
The story "Why I Live at the P.O." was included in Welty's first story collection, "A Curtain of Green" (1941). The story is about sibling rivalry, about a woman taking a stand against her family in an unusual way. It is about communication - on many levels - the apparently superficial but never-forgiving and never-ending quarrelling within this family, and all sorts of symbols - radios, letters, post offices. But most of all it's maybe about ambiguity, at least I read this story with that eerie feeling that if this didn't happen, then something else would, and in this world of Ms. Welty, it really doesn't matter which. The world is everything that is the case.
Eudora Welty deals a lot with human perception, what we utter and don't utter, what we do perceive in others and what we don't perceive, even what the narrator claims to perceive and what she claims not to perceive. This is a very effective way to portray human incompatibility and vagueness as a strategy for survival, all in a small town environment that adds more than just a setting for the characters - it's really a background commentator alongside the narrator.
There are surely many voices in Welty's writing. Her stories should really be read aloud. They have that nice - but often ominous - Southern ring.
Read the story "Why I live at the P.O."!