Still chugging along with my resolution not to buy, borrow, or bum any more books until I read all of those I currently own – I’ve recently started a book I’ve been meaning to read for the three decades or so it’s been in my possession. The Complete Stories Of Flannery O’Connor. I selected this next book to read as I’m also trying to read more writer’s of faith, and O’Connor definitely qualifies. Thus far I’ve loved everything I’ve read. Her stories are oozing with peculiar-seeming, haloed saints, danger and awkwardness. In fact, the word grotesque has been used quite often to describe some of O’Connor’s stories and characterizations. Flannery O’Connor describes the use of the grotesque as “the good under construction,” a description that I really like – even as a metaphor for my own life! Her stories so far dramatize moments of crisis that can catch people offguard, leaving them in perilous and clumsy positions – moments when grace can intervene.
Being a man born and raised in the tobacco belt of the Deep South; her characterizations, syntax, and vocabulary were all very familiar to me and my southern senses. The subjects of racism, religion, and violent reality leak through her stories like water. She once said of her stories that, “I’ve found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moments of grace.” O’Connor may not be for those who are hyper-sensitive in this day and age of political correctness and identity politics. Her writing is startling and disturbing in it’s movements toward grace, conversion, and prophesy, but I also found them strangely comforting as they inject absolute love into a sinful, fallen, and distorted world. While reading O’Connor’s works I found these questions to ponder important.
1 – What is the value of the grotesque and violent as O’Connor uses these features? How do they affirm grace and love?
2 – What is the difference between sensationalism and O’Connor’s use of unpleasant and repulsive material?
3 – How would one of faith defend her writing against the accusation that it is too dark?
I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by telling you what I think the answers to these questions are. You are all wearing your big boy and big girl pants, so I’ll let you decide for yourselves. Should you wish to read any of Flannery O’Connor’s works, they are readily available for free online, or better yet, buy a real book and support those small businesses who are now struggling financially.
Mary Flannery O'Connor - March 25 1925 - August 3 1964.