Book Rec Friday – Flannery O’Connor

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The first time I read Flannery O’Connor I was a freshman in college, and we were assigned to read her short story “Good Country People.” I read it four times in a row. And then I immediately purchased this collection of her short stories and devoured them all. Lucky for me, summer vacation was just around the corner, so I could devote my full attention to Flannery.

How do I describe the work of Flannery O’Connor? Southern gothic, southern grotesque, southern. To me, Flannery is THE southern author. Sorry, Faulkner, but you’re just too convulted for the masses. Anyway, Flannery has the grotesque southern touch. For those of you who don’t know exactly what “southern grotesque” or “southern gothic” is, let me give you a quick overview.

And by quick overview, I mean here are some links for you peruse if you are so inclined:

http://www.openculture.com/2013/04/listen_as_flannery_oconnor_reads_some_aspects_of_the_grotesque_in_southern_fiction_c_1960.html

http://www.plymouth.k12.wi.us/OldSite/Staff%20Home%20Pages/High%20School/HS%20English/Cleary1/American%20Literature/Southern%20Gothic%20Literature.pdf

http://www.goodreads.com/genres/southern-grotesque

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Gothic

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Flannery again. It’s rare that a writer can so seamlessly and effortlessly combine humor with elements of despair, violence, religion, and decay. Something terrible is happening, and it makes you LAUGH OUT LOUD, because that’s how good Flannery is. My words don’t do her work justice, so let me provide you with some quotes from her and her stories to entice you.

But first, I highly recommend reading about Flannery and her life. It’s easy to see where she got her inspiration.

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-...

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-O’Connor from 1947. Picture is cropped and edited from bigger picture: Robie with Flannery 1947.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And Flannery said is best herself, “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”

“She would of been a good woman,” said The Misfit, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
― Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find 

“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

“To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

“All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.”

“There are all kinds of truth … but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there’s no truth.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

“I use the grotesque the way I do because people are deaf and dumb and need help to see and hear.”

“Everywhere I go, I am asked if I think university stifles writers. My opinion is that it doesn’t stifle enough of them.”

“Her name was Maude and she drank whisky all day from a fruit jar under the counter.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

“I’m a member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

“Everything that gave her pleasure was small and depressed him.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge

Okay, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll stop here and leave the rest to you.

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8 thoughts on “Book Rec Friday – Flannery O’Connor

  1. Thank you for linking back to me Hannah Rose–nice post! Have you read Flannery’s collection of essays called Mystery and Manners? It’s mostly geared for writers, but her essay(s) about her peacocks in the beginning of the book are … well, it’s hard to describe them, but they’re well worth reading. I’m currently finishing that book, plus the collection of short stories that you’ve mentioned in your post (I’m on ‘Circle in the Fire’). So nice to meet another Flannery admirer!

  2. Thanks so much for linking to my post, Hannah Rose! So glad to see someone else spreading the word about Miss Flannery. She deserves a wider readership. I teach high school English and am teaching the collection of stories in A Good Man Is Hard To Find for the first time this year — so excited. Your knitting is beautiful — I have a friend who knits and my grandmother knitted afgans for all of us. I’d like to learn one day. Cheers!

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re introducing high schoolers to Flannery! I hope they understand and appreciate her. No doubt many of them will find “A Good Man is Hard to Find” very amusing.

      Thanks for the compliment on my work! I really appreciate it. And thank you for being a teacher, especially a high school English teacher. I salute you.

      • 🙂 Thank you, Hannah Rose. No one has ever thanked me for being a high school teacher before. I love what I do and I love young people. I hope to post some things on my teaching this year. I have no idea what they will think of Flannery or the others, but I know it will be interesting. Stay tuned. 🙂

  3. Pingback: ~~WORD OF THE DAY~~ | YouthVoicesTT

  4. Pingback: “The grandmother did not want to go to Florida.” Flannery O’Connor’s Mastery of the Short Story Form | Margaret Langstaff

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