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Topic: Flannery O'Connor

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Subject: Flannery O'Connor
Date Posted: 6/21/2010 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Has anyone read her works?  I have heard her mentioned for years by many of my favorite Southern writers.  It's hard to believe that I grew up in the South, majored in English education, and had never read any of her work.  When one of my favorite newer Southern writers (Joshlyn Jackson) mentioned O'Connor in the preface to her newest book, I did a little Internet research on her and downloaded a collection of her stories to my Kindle.

For one thing, she died early and, therefore, didn't leave a huge body of work.  I've read three or four of her stories and do love the way she writes.  However, I'm not sure that I'm that taken with the plots of her stories.  Has anyone here read anything by her?  I'm especially waiting to hear from John, our esteemed professor.

Subject: I Remember One Short of O' Connor's
Date Posted: 6/22/2010 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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I had to write a paper on foreshadow using her depressing but good short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find."   I got 5 points knocked off a perfect score because I didn't discuss any of the "Christology" at the end. Not being a religious person I couldn't discuss "Christology" if I tried.



Last Edited on: 6/22/10 12:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/22/2010 1:19 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Hmmm....that's one that I read.  Now I'll have to go back and see what "Christology" is in it (it certainly doesn't come to mind, exactly).

Date Posted: 6/22/2010 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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My one-and-only reading experience of Flannery O'Connor was her The Violent Bear It Away.    And from it I KNEW that she was a very unusual writer.  I have never forgotten the scene in the boat with the two characters, one of them the mentally deficient kid . . . . ( I leave it for others (interested in 'literary criticism' and 'deeper meanings' to figure out any connections between the Christian sacrament of 'baptism' and that scene in the story.)   I think each reader always has to do that for himself/herself, anyway, and not just with writers like O'Connor, who is definitely one of the more inscrutable ones. 



Last Edited on: 8/30/10 8:18 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/22/2010 3:39 PM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
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She's tricky. She softens the reader up with humor and then something awful happens. Kinda like Shirley Jackson, in that spooky, right after WW2, atomic age, the big blow-up is right around the corner when ya least expect it, existential kinda way. Worth reading, if yer strong enough....

Date Posted: 6/22/2010 4:49 PM ET
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She's tricky. She softens the reader up with humor and then something awful happens.

LOL, so true, Matt.

 

A quote from O'Conner:

Violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Life is full of such moments."

Date Posted: 6/22/2010 10:43 PM ET
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Kinda like Shirley Jackson

Shirley's work is great. I discovered her while browsing my chunky literature textbook. "The Lottery" wasn't required reading, but I am glad I read it anyway.

I liked "The Lottery" so much that I bought a copy of The Lottery and Other Stories. I discovered  that Jackson wove a man named James Harris in every story.

I think he was the devil himself. It was really quite entertaining to watch for the old "dark man" Harris or his kin to show up. In fact, if I recall correctly Jackson was inspired to write the book because of a children's ballad called  "James Harris the Daemon Lover"

Anyway, it's creepy and wonderful.

Date Posted: 6/22/2010 11:20 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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I NEVER could see why the critics were so in love with her. I have only one word to describe her works. GRO --TESK

And behind the writing, she sure seems like a misanthrope.

Date Posted: 6/23/2010 2:58 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Wow!  John!  I expected a long, informative treatise so that I would solemnly appreciate O'Connor's contributions to Southern literature.   See, I still need an English professor to tell me why I should appreciate literature.  Guess I'll just have to read more of her the old-fashioned way.  Actually, I've enjoyed the three or four stories that I've read and will continue to read her until I either get tired of her or run out of her work.

But, at least your comments make me feel better about not really understanding why so many Southern writers give her credit.

Date Posted: 6/23/2010 11:55 AM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Golly, Vivian . . . .have you truly "enjoyed" reading Flannery O'Connor?  That ain't the word I woulda used to describe how her writing made me feel.

Date Posted: 6/23/2010 6:00 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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I have only one word to describe her works. GRO --TESK  And behind the writing, she sure seems like a misanthrope

ROTFL!

That ain't the word I woulda used to describe how her writing made me feel

Granted "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is the only O' Connor story I've read that I can clearly recall. Pardon the pun, but the level of violence blew me away.  My initial reaction when I finished it was anger at the violent ending.  Only after researching it a bit did it make some sense. Then it became very good and I wanted to read more of her work. I think I've read "Judgement Day" too. Her characters are so bad.



Last Edited on: 6/23/10 6:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/23/2010 9:49 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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Cormac McCarthy has on several occasions been compared to her. His works, as with any of the great ones, are written from a comprehensive world view, and, how can I say it, demonstrate? that world view. He seems to have fallen in near-despair with his latest, much publicized books. In a much earlier, pretty hard to find, one, Child of God. he does resemble O'Connor, but he is never misanthropic.

 

Date Posted: 6/23/2010 10:55 PM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2009
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The only story I have read by O'Conner is "The Life You Save May Be Your Own."  The introduction described the story as gothic, with elements of the grotesque, lol! I didn't like it, I don't want to live in her world!

Date Posted: 6/24/2010 9:12 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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Bonnie, I read one more story by O'Connor (this makes 4 or 5) after your last comment.  I don't think that "enjoy" is precisely the word for what I'm doing with her writing.  I believe that right now "fascinates" may be more like it.  In "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," I think I liked reading her dialect.  It, to my (hopefully educated) Southern ears, really sounds like the dialect, sayings, etc. of a part of the South at that time.  Frankly, it still sounds like a part of the South.

However, fascination or not, I almost turn the page at the end of each story thinking, okay, what else?  And there is no what else.  I'll probably keep on reading her until I get tired of it or run out of her writing. 

So, what do you think it is that many Southern writers have received from O'Connor's writing?



Last Edited on: 6/24/10 9:44 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/24/2010 7:20 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Well, Vivian, maybe it's what writers sometimes get from the nervier ones amongst their profession-----a kind of "chutzpah", or bolstering of the writer's selfhood that encourages 'em to go ahead and write what it is that they want to write,, and critics, etc., be damned?  I dunno, but I like to hear LOTS of literary voices, despite evenything.  I even read Truman Capote, and Erskine Caldwell, and Faulkner, 'cause theirs are voices to be listened to, too.  I don't think it's exactly masochistic to read thataway, either.  But then, as my kids are wont to remark at times, I'm a "crazy lady."



Last Edited on: 6/25/10 12:24 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Subject: I revere Flannery!
Date Posted: 6/25/2010 7:08 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
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A few years ago, my friend Jody recommended that I read The Habit of Being, the collected letters of Flannery O'Connor. I was absolutely enthralled! O'Connor explains, in great detail, the various plots of her stories and their underlying philosophies. (She also gets into very deep theological discussions--which, even though I'm Catholic, are way over my head.) Anyway, this book led to my reading everything else she wrote.

Her stories have a raw, quirky quality that I appreciate. She is so unique. I do believe, though, that reading the letters ahead of time helped enrich those stories for me.

On a side note, I also enjoyed reading about O'Connor's peacocks and her strange mother. I was impressed with her strength dealing with lupus.

Another poster mentioned Shirley Jackson--another of my idols. I have read her The Haunting of Hill House a zillion times (and even taught that book for several years). Her short stories are gems--she was way more than "The Lottery." Her biography describes a challenging life. (And yet this same woman wrote several light-hearted books about her family that would remind one of Jean Kerr.)

I also adore Truman Capote. His "Christmas Memory" is one of the most brilliant pieces of writing ever.

                                                                                                                                                                  Rose

Date Posted: 6/26/2010 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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Her biography describes a challenging life. (And yet this same woman wrote several light-hearted books about her family that would remind one of Jean Kerr.)

I have a collection of Jackson's lighter domestic novels. They read a lot like Erma Bombeck only not as funny. After a while, Jackson's mommy routine get's old. I like her dark side so much better.

Date Posted: 8/30/2010 4:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
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Flannery O'Connor's first published story was "The Geranium".  It absolutely wrecks me.  It's a weeper and a half.

 

She has a knack for finding the uncomfortable spot in your psyche and giving it a good poke.  Not everyone's cup of tea, but I like to see where it is.



Last Edited on: 8/30/10 4:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/30/2010 6:21 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Sarah,

So far, I've only read one collection of O'Connor's.  I received another book of them from pbs but haven't read them yet.  I don't think that I read "The Geranium."  Even though I'm not a big fan of short stories, O'Connor's really fascinated me--maybe in the same way that you can't look away from a traffic accident.