Flannery O’Connor

Years ago, I read the story A good Man is Hard to Find at the recommendation of a friend. I remember staying up late to finish it, and fighting the urge to call my friend to berate her for failing to warn me about the story’s brutal impact.

Now I’ve just read Flannery O’Connor’s second novel,The Violent Bear it Away with no prompting from anyone and no one to blame for my distress except for the writer’s merciless vision and brilliant prose. Her writing is peculiar, terrifying, and exhilarating. (If you’re thinking about writing fiction, it will certainly take the wind out of your sails.)

Flannery O’Connor is now officially my idol. She is fearless in going after her characters and relentless in probing their twisted relationships with god and/or morality.

Here’s what the poet Robert Lowell says: ”Much savagery, compassion, farce, art, and truth have gone into these stories. O’Connor’s characters are wholeheartedly horrible, and almost better than life. I find it hard to think of a funnier or more frightening writer.” 

I could not agree more. If you’re looking for a book to remove you from your everyday reality and you’re not afraid to explore the dark Southern Gothic heart of the heart of darkness, you could not do better than “The Violent Bear it Away.”  

Let me know if you read it, or if you have any recommendations for me.

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23 Responses to “Flannery O’Connor”

  1. Kimi Says:

    I love Flannery O’Conner. She and Raymond Carver are my writer-idols. For another great Flannery read, I highly recommend the book of short stories “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”

    I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on the list. Thanks for the rec!

  2. D.R. Says:

    Not being theologically inclined, I thought I’d die of clotted boredom. More symbolism essay than novel, which I thought I was going to be reading. Of course this was years ago and I remember wanting to symbolically baptize it by fire. I’m the mother of a Down Syndrome child, though…and it was interesting to get the 40’s and 50’s perspective about intellectual disability. RO’C made Bishop a symbol…not a desirable position for any human being. But what do I know? I do enjoy reading your blog.

  3. Jessica Says:

    Thanks…I’m going to search for both and I will report back. I don’t know if this would be something on your level but I just finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s a YA novel and I was hesitant at first but since I have no real standards when it comes to my choice of books, why not? At the very least it was an escape from reality.

  4. ali Says:

    Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

  5. ali Says:

    (not poetry!)

  6. ali Says:

    OR…. On Being Blue (A philosophical inquiry) by William Gass. Your love of words and love of colors…. makes this a good choice I think.

    In fact, I think I read this (RED THIS) right about the time you integrated blues into your tumblr. perfect.

  7. Patricia Says:

    Will definitely read it. I trust your taste.

  8. Sister Wolf Says:

    Kimi – I plan to get that collection, thanks!

    D.R. – Oh dear! I am not at all religious, in fact, I am a true godless heathen. Also, I didn’t go to high school, so I am unencumbered by the ability to recognize literary symbols. I’m a special needs mom as well, and I’m glad you like my blog, xo

    Jessica – I respect your lack of standards. Escape is what we’re after.

    ali -I tried reading William Gass a thousand years ago, but I will look for On Being Blue. Thank you!

    Patricia – Let me know if you like it or hate it!

  9. Madam Restora Says:

    Excuse my ignorance but who is that woman in the photo with the peacocks?

  10. Sister Wolf Says:

    Madame Restora – That’s Flannery O’Connor and her peacocks.

  11. ali Says:

    It is gorgeous. Exactly the kind of thing you would like… even though I have been wrong about your taste in literature before. I KNOW I am right about this one because of THE WEIGHT OF HIS COLORS!

  12. Cricket9 Says:

    I’m ashamed to say that I did not read anything by Flannery O’Connor. Not a thing! Don’t know how it happened, but will change this state of affairs. Funny and frightening…we’ll see.

  13. Marky Says:

    Okay, you ***HAVE*** to read Brad Gooch’s biography of her, “Flannery.” You’ll like her even more. Plus, Brad Gooch is a hunk of a gay man. I will start “The Violent Bear it Away” ASAP. I’ve read all over her stories, but never the novels.

    Call Mr. Sister Wolf at work and tell him to bring you home a copy of “Flannery.” Like, right now.

  14. Kristin Says:

    O’Connor would appeal to you Sister Wolf. I call you a Slasher Opinionator and so was she. She goes to the most brutal end. Her religion was her calling though you don’t have to be Catholic to get her point. One of the elements she traces is the sin of “willful ignorance.” In one of her stories a Southern family sponsors an immigrant man and lets him work one of their pieces of farm equipment. They willfully ignore the fact that it is dangerous and that he doesn’t know how to handle it and let him be cut to bits.

  15. Sister Wolf Says:

    Kristin – In existentialism, willful ignorance is also a sin called “bad faith.” And I detest it wherever I see it. But farm equipment – I would draw the line there. I hope.

  16. Sister Wolf Says:

    Marky – Well, years ago when I was a reader, I had to read something by Mr. Gooch, either a first novel in galleys or maybe a screenplay. I remember being slightly traumatized by how deeply awful it was. I will take you word that he is a new man, writing-wise!

  17. Bonnie Says:

    Flannery O’Connor totally blew me away the first time i read her, and she still does. I highly recommend the short stories of Steven Millhauser. I’m currently reading the newest collection, “We Others”.

  18. David Duff Says:

    For you, Big Sis, I recommend some Beatrix Potter, it might cheer you up from what sounds like the ghastly up-chuckings of Ms. O’Connor.

  19. Sister Wolf Says:

    David – Are you kidding?? Farmer Brown is terrifying!!!!

  20. Sister Wolf Says:

    Bonnie – I will try his stories, thank you!

  21. tartandtreacly Says:

    I haven’t read Flannery O’Connor in a long while and have never read “The Violent Bear It Away.” I really should.

    Every year I read a little less and a little more of my brain turns to mush. If you like southern gothic, you might want to give Alice Munro a go (have to pimp my Canadian authors!)

    Stuff I did read recently and liked very much:

    – Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (delicious, like an apple ripe with strychnine)

    – a collection of Mike Royko’s columns. (Royko was a Chicago newspaperman, full of opinions and full of wit. I think you’d like him.)

  22. Aly Says:

    I would recommend anything and everything by Kurt Vonnegut. Good God do I idolize that Man. Also, On The Road by Cormac McCarthy- brilliant.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I know I can trust you with something as sacred as a good novel recommendation. If I listened to my friends I would be reading shite like Eat, Pray, Love. *shudder*

  23. Sister Wolf Says:

    tartandtreacly – I loved Vanity Fair as well! And I like Alice Munro too. I know what you mean about mush: I blame the internet as well as encroaching dementia.

    Aly – Love Kurt Vonnegut. I would only read Eat Pray Love at gunpoint!

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