An exemplary short story collection & very likely at the zenith in most "all-time" lists. The elements of which practically overflow in each short story: the immortal clashes between races, between sexes, between ages... plus the fabulous and macabre for which we've come to know and love the artist, such as: bizarrely wise children and inane adults; monkeys (of course!); trains, cars, transportation; self-fulfilling prophecy (the titular story is the main example of this); death, missteps, punishment exchanged for ingrained ignorance; as one character boldly puts it, an infatuation with "secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children" (173).
I didn't know that the human mind would concieve of this until she did.
Exiled From Eden I dont always have the aptitude and the patience (paradoxically) for short fiction, but OConnor has a way of connecting all her stories by setting them in a landscape that refuses to leave you. Can religion be blamed for the mistakes of humanity?
Flannery O'Connor had to be an influence of sorts on Jim Thompson, as this reads a lot like a condensed version of one of his stories. "He could hear broken piece of the sun knocking on the water." The Life You Save May Be Your Own: A one armed drifter takes up with an old woman and her deaf maiden daughter. Good Country People: A young man shows up at Mrs. Hopewell's house selling bibles and takes a shine to her daughter, Joy. This was another great story that reminded me of a Jim Thompson, Savage Night. The ending of this one really drives home my point that it's very likely that Jim Thompson was a Flannery O'Connor fan. A Good Man is Hard to Find is a powerful collection of tales by an overlooked mistress of the form.
My only conclusion is that, aside from being hypnotized to terror by O'Connor's seductive prose, I must have some residual, albeit repressed fears of the religion instilled in me at a young age. Those "tales of terror" from the preacher's mouth must still rattle around in my subconscious from time to time, which would explain why the horror movies that have most scared me in my life have always centered on demons and damnation.
Joyce Carol Oates says (in a review in the New York Times) no postwar and posthumous literary reputation of the twentieth century, with the notable exception of Sylvia Plath, has grown more rapidly and dramatically than that of Flannery OConnor, whose work has acquired a canonical status since her death in 1964. Likes of us dont get to know. With Flannery OConnor Im in the most uncomfortable position of greatly enjoying and admiring a writer who I know absolutely I dont understand, and further, that if I did, I wouldnt like any part of what she was telling me.
I am developing quite an addiction for the Southern flavor of American literature, and reading my first short story collection by Flannery O'Connor is more than just adding fuel to the flame of my interest. The outside world barges into their lives in the most brutal and unreasonable way, and I can't really think what the lesson is, other than to live life fully and meaningfully while we can, because it is so fragile and precious and easily wasted. The River is possible even more disturbing than the first story, because here, instead of an old lady, we have a young boy sent by his indifferent parents to spend the day with a babysitter. This lady takes the boy to a Baptist ceremony, and I believe the moral is we need to be very careful about what we teach our children and how we protect them from harm. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is one of the first stories to introduce the dynamics of a mother and daughter relationship, a recurrent theme in the collection. A Stroke of Good Fortune is the story of another selfish woman, one of modest origins who tries to escape from the perceived prison of the cycle of marriage and children and taking care of the land and of the family, choosing instead a form of living for yourself. A Temple of the Holy Ghost is one of the few stories with a touch of humour, coming from a very smart young girl who receives the visit in her house of two older girls from a convent school. The young witness/narrator is quick to dismiss the convent girls for their shallowness : "Neither of them could tell an intelligent thing and all their sentences began, 'You know this boy I know well one time he ...'" . Yet there is hope still for the old man, even at this late stage in his life: "Mr Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew that there were no words in the world that could name it. This time, the authoritarian lady is hard working and very proud of her farm, while the daughter hides in an upper room (autistic?) and timidly looks at the world from a safe distance. We are not our own light!" * exclaims the young lady in despair, finding philosophy an insufficently strong support in her time of need. The Displaced Person ends the collection in grand style, opening out the enclosed and often retrograde Southern culture to the modern influences and upheavals brought about by the second world war. A priest persuades her to accept a family of Polish refugees from the concentration camps, and the change seems beneficial in the beginning, as the new man introduces modern machines and a more rigorous work ethic. It's getting so full of people that only the smart thrifty energetic ones are going to survive." The old hands rebel against the changes, and the lady is torn between being faithful to her traditions and accepting the modern times. The story ends with the priest trying to give solace to the guilty conscience of the owner, and my own review ends with an ambiguous message of hope, one that requires a strong character who accepts all humanity's faults and still has the faith to go on: "We are all damned, but some of us have taken off our blindfolds and see that there's nothing to see.
OConnor was educated at the Georgia State College for Women, studied writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and wrote much of Wise Blood at the Yaddo artists colony in upstate New York.