Flannery O’Connor

My copy of 'A Circle In the Fire and Other Stories' by Flannery O'Connor
My copy of ‘A Circle In the Fire and Other Stories’ by Flannery O’Connor

The fiction of Flannery O’Connor is entirely new to me, but I was tempted by the samples I read and the truly beautiful Folio Society edition which was published recently.

I  certainly wasn’t disappointed. She depicts brutal events happening to (mostly) unpleasant people, events that are often violent and sometimes bizarre. I’ve long been aware of a Southern-Gothic-shaped hole in my reading and O’Connor delivers everything I’d expected and more in the way of tough customers, con-artists, hideous parents and repulsive children all drenched in a broad-brush South suffocated with sun and sin.

But that’s where I have a problem. If I hadn’t read anything about O’Connor’s Roman Catholic intent to dramatise the paths to salvation, I wouldn’t have easily known it from her stories. I know that was her aim because I’ve read what she’d written and said in lectures about it, not because I inferred it from her work and surely for that to be effective you should be able to do it from reading the stories alone.

I’ve almost certainly missed something and I’ll be re-reading these stories, shuddering and holding my breath as I do, for a long time to come. They’re amazing. But if you know how I’m getting the wrong end of the stick, I’d love you to tell me.

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5 thoughts on “Flannery O’Connor

  1. I never really got that from her literature either and I’ve probably over read her. I think it’s really subtle and even if it is the intent, I don’t think she forced it at all, and you really have to dig. Maybe it’s like a big idea theme?

    1. I’m sure you’re right. They really are extraordinary stories and I’m sure you can enjoy them (if ‘enjoy’ is the right word) for their own sakes. I tend to be of the view though that the greatest literature needs no extra explanation but can stand or fall on its own.

      1. I think O’Conner falls in that niche of literature that isn’t really “great literature” but solved a problem at the time or needed to be written in that historical moment. She’s great at the grotesque, and has thought provoking literature but it’s not going to be added to the canon. At least that’s what I think.

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