Monday, July 11, 2005

Flannery O'Connor

Do yourself a favor, treat yourself. If you've never read The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor, read it now. If you have, read it again this summer. Read more . . . Winner of the 1971 National Book Award, these are mighty strange stories of broken people in a fallen world: hermaphrodites who proclaim themselves visible, inscrutable sign of God; physically maimed men and women, tormented by spirits and passions they can't fathom; landowners, poor whites and blacks colluding in nameless, unspeakable guilt.

O'Connor's work, at its best, made manifest and palpable abstractions such as sin and redemption. Her work shouts of a world of spirit that is larger than all our categories and schema, encountered in experience but never contained or mastered. Only through difficult and painful revelation can the Kingdom be realized. Writing about the South in the middle of the twentieth century, her work is suffused with the divisions and nuances of race and class. She was a master of the short story form, as well. You get the solid setup, the telling character detail, the punch at the end of the story. Especially good are "Parker's Back," "The Displaced Person," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," "A Temple of the Holy Ghost," "Good Country People," "The Comforts of Home," "The Lame Shall Enter First," and the classic "A Good Man is Hard to Find." This is a wonderful anthology of work from a powerful writer. Again, do yourself a favor and read this.
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