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.