The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O'Connor put together in her short lifetime--Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.
O'Connor published her first story, "The Geranium," in 1946, while she was working on her master's degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, "Judgement Day"--sent to her publisher shortly before her death—is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of "The Geranium." Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O'Connor's longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux.
O'Connor observes all this with an astonishing combination of irony and compassion, humor and pathos. The result is a novel whose range and depth reveal a brilliant and innovative writers acutely alert to where the sacred lives and to where it does not.
O'Connor could not be more plain about her literary ambition: "Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted," she writes. Yet she struggles with any trace of self-regard: "Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story."
As W. A. Sessions, who knew O'Connor, writes in his introduction, it was no coincidence that she began writing the stories that would become her first novel, Wise Blood, during the years when she wrote these singularly imaginative Christian meditations. Including a facsimile of the entire journal in O'Connor's own hand, A Prayer Journal is the record of a brilliant young woman's coming-of-age, a cry from the heart for love, grace, and art.
Unique to Wood's approach is his concern to show how O'Connor's stories, novels, and essays impinge on America's cultural and ecclesial condition. He uses O'Connor's work as a window onto its own regional and religious ethos. Indeed, he argues here that O'Connor's fiction has lasting, even universal, significance precisely because it is rooted in the confessional witness of her Roman Catholicism and in the Christ-haunted character of the American South.
According to Wood, it is this O'Connor -- the believer and the Southerner -- who helps us at once to confront the hardest cultural questions and to propose the profoundest religious answers to them. His book is thus far more than a critical analysis of O'Connor's writing; in fact, it is principally devoted to cultural and theological criticism by way of O'Connor's searing insights into our time and place.
These are some of the engaging moral and religious questions that Wood explores: the role of religious fundamentalism in American culture and in relation to both Protestant liberalism and Roman Catholicism; the practice of racial slavery and its continuing legacy in the literature and religion of the South; the debate over Southern identity, especially whether it is a culture rooted in ancient or modern values; the place of preaching and the sacraments in secular society and dying Christendom; and the lure of nihilism in contemporary American culture.
Splendidly illuminating both O'Connor herself and the American mind, Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South will inform and fascinate a wide range of readers, from lovers of literature to those seriously engaged with religious history, cultural analysis, or the American South.
The book opens with "The King of the Birds," her famous account of raising peacocks at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia. Also included are: three essays on regional writing, including "The Fiction Writer and His Country" and "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction"; two pieces on teaching literature, including "Total Effect and the 8th Grade"; and four articles concerning the writer and religion, including "The Catholic Novel in the Protestant South." Essays such as "The Nature and Aim of Fiction" and "Writing Short Stories" are widely seen as gems.
This bold and brilliant essay-collection is a must for all readers, writers, and students of contemporary American literature.
Despite her early death from lupus at 39, Flannery O'Connor has left a remarkable literary legacy. She emerged as one of America's most controversial, misunderstood, and promising young writers. Though she published only two novels, a collection of short stories, and various other prose works, she forcefully conveyed her Catholicism to a wide audience. She frequently created grotesque Southern characters, depicted violent situations, and wrote with acerbic wit. This biography discusses her fascinating life and literary career.
Written especially for high school students and undergraduates, this volume is a concise and accessible guide to O'Connor's achievements. Included are chapters on her youth and early works, the decline of her health and her return to her hometown, her maturation as an author, her identity as a Southern writer, and her final years. The volume also presents a timeline and bibliography of books, articles, and electronic sources for student research.
These devastations paradoxically prepare the characters to receive and give compassion. In its numerous and disturbing forms, the coupling of violence and hardship with divine favor marks the mature nature of O'Connor's Christianity. Suffering is found at heart of love and is its hidden face, agonized and abandoned. This is a love that is an anomaly and an enigma, for the wracked human body holds the glimmer of good omen. Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love traces the evolution of these gaping wounds of love to show how they present the same challenge to her readers as to her characters, all of whom must learn that we are worth what our love is worth.
Originally published in 1986.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
"I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O'Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her letters . . . There she stands, a phoenix risen from her own words: calm, slow, funny, courteous, both modest and very sure of herself, intense, sharply penetrating, devout but never pietistic, downright, occasionally fierce, and honest in a way that restores honor to the word."—Sally Fitzgerald, from the Introduction
A Good Man Is Hard to Find is Flannery O'Connor's most famous and most discussed story. O'Connor herself singled it out by making it the title piece of her first collection and the story she most often chose for readings or talks to students. It is an unforgettable tale, both riveting and comic, of the confrontation of a family with violence and sudden death. More than anything else O'Connor ever wrote, this story mixes the comedy, violence, and religious concerns that characterize her fiction.
This casebook for the story includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of the author's life, the authoritative text of the story itself, comments and letters by O'Connor about the story, critical essays, and a bibliography. The critical essays span more than twenty years of commentary and suggest several approaches to the storyÐÐformalistic, thematic, deconstructionistÐÐ all within the grasp of the undergraduate, while the introduction also points interested students toward still other resources. Useful for both beginning and advanced students, this casebook provides an in-depth introduction to one of America's most gifted modern writers.
The contributors are Michael O. Bellamy, Hallman B. Bryant, William S. Doxey, J. Peter Dyson, Madison Jones, W. S. Marks, III, Carter Martin, William J. Scheick, Mary Jane Schenck, and J. O. Tate.
Throughout O'Connor's work there are significant biblical allusions which have been neglected or previously undiscovered. This book acknowledges her biblical source material so readers can understand the impact it had on her fiction. Cofer argues that readers can better appreciate her work by examining how her stories are often grounded in specific biblical texts, which she similarly distorts, exaggerates, and subverts, in order to shock and teach readers. Simply put, O'Connor doesn't merely reference these biblical stories, she rewrites them.
--Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners
Drowning in a river, the violent murder of a grandmother in the backwoods of Georgia, and the trans-genital display of a freak at a carnival show are all shocking literary devices used by Flannery O'Connnor, one of American literature's best pulp fiction writers. More than thirty-five years after her death, readers are still shocked by O'Connor's grotesque images. Dr. Jill Baumgaertner concentrates on O'Connor's use of emblems, those moments of sudden and horrid illumination when the sacred and the profane merge as sacrament. This readable volume is ideal for college students, O'Connor scholars, or those wishing to better understand southern gothic fiction.
An introductory essay examines the growth of O'Connor's literary reputation and outlines the major approaches taken by literary scholars to interpreting and elucidating her work. The 47 pieces collected in this volume represent the diverse reactions her work has created. The items are grouped into three sections, each representing a chronological period: the first section compiles the reactions of critics during her lifetime, the second section compiles criticism from the 25 years that elapsed between her death in 1964 until the 1989 publication of her Collected Works, and the third section brings together new critical approaches that foreshadow future trends in O'Connor criticism.
The fifteen essays collected here offer a wide range of perspectives that explore our changing views of violence in a post-9/11 world and inform our understanding of a writer whose fiction abounds in violence. Written by both established and emerging scholars, the pieces that editors Avis Hewitt and Robert Donahoo have selected offer a compelling and varied picture of this iconic author and her work. Included are comparisons of O’Connor to 1950s writers of noir literature and to the contemporary American novelist Cormac McCarthy; cultural studies that draw on horror comics of the Cold War and on Fordism and the American mythos of the automobile; and pieces that shed new light on O’Connor’s complex religious sensibility and its role in her work.
While continuing to speak fresh truths about her own time, O’Connor’s fiction also resonates deeply with the postmodern sensibilities of audiences increasingly distant from her era—readers absorbed in their own terrors and sense of looming, ineffable threats. This provocative new collection presents O’Connor’s work as a touchstone for understanding where our culture has been and where we are now. With its diverse approaches, Flannery O’Connor in the Age of Terrorism will prove useful not only to scholars and students of literature but to anyone interested in history, popular culture, theology, and reflective writing.
Avis Hewitt has published articles in Flannery O’Connor Review, Christianity and Literature, and Renascence. She is associate professor of English at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
Robert Donahoo is professor of English at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He has published articles in Flannery O’Connor Review, Literature and Belief, Journal of Contemporary Thought, and Journal of the Short Story in English.
In "A Man-to-Be," a militiaman engaged to be married participates in a gang rape, but finds himself impotent when he looks into the eyes of the victim. His fiancee's family breaks off the engagement, not because of the rape, but because they doubt his virility. In "Winds and Clouds over a Funeral," a Communist leader disobeys his mother's last wish for burial to keep his good standing in the party, but his enemies bring him down for being a bad son. "In Broad Daylight" is the story of the public humiliation of a woman accused of being a whore. Her dignified defiance is gradually stripped away as she is dragged through the streets, cursed and spat upon by strangers and family alike.
In Under the Red Flag, privacy is nonexistent and paranoia rules as neighbor turns against neighbor, husband turns against wife, state turns against individual, history turns against humanity. These stories display the earnestness and grandeur of human folly, and in a larger sense, form a moral history of a time and a place.
Gautier's focus is on quiet daily moments, even in extraordinary lives; her characters do not stand as emblems of a subculture but live and breathe as people. In “The Ease of Living,” the young teen Jason is sent down south to spend the summer with his grandfather after witnessing the double murder of his two best friends, and he is not happy about it. A season of sneaking into as many movies as possible on one ticket or dunking girls at the pool promises to turn into a summer of shower chairs and the smell of Ben-Gay in the unimaginably backwoods town of Tallahassee. In “Pan Is Dead,” two half-siblings watch as the heroin-addicted father of the older one works his way back into their mother's life; in “Dance for Me,” a girl on scholarship at a posh Manhattan school teaches white girls to dance in the bathroom in order to be invited to a party.
As teenagers in complicated circumstances, each of Gautier's characters is pushed in many directions. To succeed may entail unforgiveable compromises, and to follow their desires may lead to catastrophe. Yet within these stories they exist and can be seen as they are, in the moment of choosing.
Memories erode as Porter's characters struggle to determine what has happened to their loved ones and whether they are responsible. Children and teenagers carry heavy burdens in these stories: in "River Dog" the narrator cannot fully remember a drunken party where he suspects his older brother assaulted a classmate; in "Azul" a childless couple, craving the affection of an exchange student, fails to set the boundaries that would keep him safe; and in "Departure" a suburban teenage boy fascinated with the Amish makes a futile attempt to date a girl he can never be close to.
Memory often replaces absence in these stories as characters reconstruct the events of their pasts in an attempt to understand what they have chosen to keep. These struggles lead to an array of secretive and escapist behavior as the characters, united by middle-class social pressures, try to maintain a sense of order in their lives. Drawing on the tradition of John Cheever, these stories recall and revisit the landscape of American suburbia through the lens of a new generation.
In the title story, La Donna is a black stripper whose white boyfriend, an actor in adult movies, insists that she stop stripping. In "Melvin in the Sixth Grade," eleven-year-old Avery has a crush on a white boy from Oklahoma who, like Avery, is an outsider in their suburban Los Angeles school. "Markers" is as much about a woman's relationship with her mother as it is about the dissolution of her relationship with an older Italian man.
Dana Johnson has an intuitive sense of character and a gift for creating authentic voices. She effortlessly captures the rhythmic vernaculars of Los Angeles, the American South, and various immigrant communities as she brings to life the sometimes heavyhearted, but always persevering, souls who live there.
The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction--sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other--and live to tell the tale. While backtrolling for kings on the Kenai River or filleting the catch of the Halibut Hellion with marvelous speed, these characters recount the gamble they took that didn't pay off, or they expound on how not only does Uncle Too-Soon need a girlfriend, the whole state of Alaska needs a girlfriend. A story like "The Mannequin at Soldotna" takes snapshots: a doctor tends to an injured fisherman, a man covets another man's green fishing lure, a girl is found in the river with a bullet in her head. Another story offers an easy moment with a difficult mother, when she reaches out to touch a breaching whale.
This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.
In "A Country Girl," for example, she creates an idyllic valley where a barefoot girl sings melodies "low and private as a lullaby" and where "you could pick up one of the little early apples from the ground and eat it right then without worrying about pesticide." But something changes this summer afternoon with the arrival at a family reunion of fair and fiery Johnny Calhoun: "everybody's kind and nobody's kin," forty in a year or so, "and wild in the way that made him worth the trouble he caused."
The title story in the collection begins with a visit to clean the graves in a country cemetery and ends with the terrifying pursuit of a young girl and her grandmother by two bikers, one of whom "had the invading sort of eyes the woman had spent her lifetime bolting doors against."
In the story "Inexorable Process" we see the relentless desperation of Angelina, "who hated many things, but Sundays most of all," and in "Solomon's Seal" the ancient anger of the mountain woman who has crowded her husband out of her life and her heart, until the plants she has tended in her rage fill the half-acre. "The madder she got, the greener everything grew."
In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In “Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of “All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In “Dr. Deneau’s Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in “The Children beneath the Seat.” And in “Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man’s fatal flight from his wife.
In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.
While other critics have chosen to treat Flannery O'Connor as a traditional Southern or dogmatic Catholic writer, Hendin takes a perceptively fresh view of her work in the context of contemporary fiction. Hendin illuminates all her fiction, beginning with the early novels and ending with Everything that Rises Must Converge. Differentiating her from other Southern writers, Hendin shows how O'Connor created a unique art, remarkable for its portrait of the agony of American yearning.
A Political Companion to Flannery O'Connor explores the author's fiction, prose, and correspondence to reveal her central ideas about political thought in America. The contributors address topics such as O'Connor's affinity with writers and philosophers including Eric Voegelin, Edith Stein, Russell Kirk, and the Agrarians; her attitudes toward the civil rights movement; and her thoughts on controversies over eugenics. Other essays in the volume focus on O'Connor's influences, the principles underlying her fiction, and the value of her work for understanding contemporary intellectual life and culture.
Examining the political context of O'Connor's life and her responses to the critical events and controversies of her time, this collection offers meaningful interpretations of the political significance of this influential writer's work.
In “The Nurse and the Black Lagoon” a woman tries to understand why her teenage son has been accused of a disturbing crime. In “Testimony” an adult daughter visiting her father does everything she can to keep herself from remembering what she believes she cannot bear. A man returns to his hometown in “Dear Nicole” to face the realization that he married the wrong woman out of misplaced guilt. “Oregon” portrays the internal struggle of a woman who, having years ago betrayed a secret entrusted to her by her best friend, is tempted to repeat the mistake with the same friend’s daughter. And in the collection’s novella, “Please Come Back To Me,” a young widow seeks faith and comfort—in both natural and supernatural realms—after her husband’s death leaves her alone to care for their infant son.
On the surface, Jessica Treadway’s stories offer realistic portrayals of people in situations that make them question their roles as family members, their ability to do the right thing, and even their sanity. But Treadway’s psychic landscapes are tinged with a sense of the surreal, inviting readers to recognize—as her characters do—that very little is actually as it seems.
Often in these stories, what seems a safe, comfortable environment turns suddenly threatening. In the title story, a writer's quiet existence amid his antiques and books is dismantled, piece by piece, by a demonic, beer-bellied piano tuner. In "The Ponoes," a man recalls how, as a young boy living in Brooklyn during World War II, he became a collaborationist in the brutal pranks of two Irish bullies. In "The Twisted River," the sedate collegiality of a Polish university is disrupted when an American on a Fulbright grant attempts to blackmail two faculty members. And in "The Bracelet," a young anthropology student doing field work in Africa finds herself drawn further and further into the role of a priestess of Oshun, into a life dictated by the configuration of cowry shells cast upon the floor.
Meinke writes of a world where our control over our lives seldom exists across a border, and often extends no further than our fingertips. Attempts to bridge two cultures, two lives are sometimes successful, as when an actor finds love in the arms of a tough-talking barmaid, but more usually lead to disillusionment, as when a hard-drinking salesman's career is shattered after he is drunk under the table one night by a Polish engineer, or when an English father struggles to find common ground with his American son. Riveting, almost terrifying, the stories in The Piano Tuner tell of decent men and women caught in events that they could never have predicted, would never have chosen.
This collection of linked short stories takes its title from the name of the western border region of the Russian empire within which Jews were required to live during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Susan, the stories' main character, is a woman trapped in her own border region between youth and adulthood, familial roots in the Middle East and a typical American existence, the pull of Jewish tradition and the independence of a secular life.
In "Helicopter Days," Susan discovers that the Israeli cousin she grew up with has joined a mysterious cult. "Lila's Story" braids Susan's memories of her grandmother--a German Jew arriving in Palestine to escape the Holocaust--with the story of her own affair with a married man and an invented narrative of her grandmother's life. In "Borderland," while trekking in Nepal, Susan meets an Israeli soldier who carries with him the terrible burden of his experience as a border guard in the Gaza Strip. And in the haunting title story, bedtime tales are set against acts of terrorism and memories of a love beyond reach. The stories of The Pale of Settlement explore the borderland between Israelis and American Jews, emigrants and expatriates, and vanished homelands and the dangerous world in which we live today.
PRAISE FOR FLANNERY
"Flannery O'Connor, one of the best American writers of short fiction, has found her ideal biographer in Brad Gooch. With elegance and fairness, Gooch deals with the sensitive areas of race and religion in O'Connor's life. He also takes us back to those heady days after the war when O'Connor studied creative writing at Iowa. There is much that is new in this book, but, more important, everything is presented in a strong, clear light." --Edmund White
"This splendid biography gives us no saint or martyr but the story of a gifted and complicated woman, bent on making the best of the difficult hand fate has dealt her, whether it is with grit and humor or with an abiding desire to make palpable to readers the terrible mystery of God's grace." --Frances Kiernan, author of Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy
"A good biographer is hard to find. Brad Gooch is not merely good-he is extraordinary. Blessed with the eye and ear of a novelist, he has composed the life that admirers of the fierce and hilarious Georgia genius have long been hoping for." -- Joel Conarroe, President Emeritus, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation
Jacquelin Gorman lays bare nine parallel worlds of suffering in stories of unflinching detail, vividly told with heart, guts, and compassion. In these pages, the children are both murderers and victims, and the adults fare no better: a teenage father shakes his screaming baby to death; high school surfers kill the homeless for sport as a way of cleaning up their beaches; a Muslim basketball player readies her best friend for burial with a sacred ritual that reveals forbidden love; a scorned ex-wife leaves a message in permanent ink on the body of her betrayer; and a pet therapy dog's unconditional love for a decaying body memorializes the spirit within.
This moving and unsettling collection of stories shines a piercing light on the dark corners of our modern world, illuminating necessary truths that convey a clearer and, undoubtedly, greater vision of humanity.
It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?
In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.
In "The Big Bang and the Good House", Tony, a former drug dealer, pits his urge toward chaos against the orderly pleasures of marriage, finally yielding to the solidity and spaciousness of domestic love: "I feel myself gathering weight, density. Cautiously, I allow myself to inhabit this Good House, which surprisingly fits like my own body". Julia, the aging protagonist of "Simplifying", risks her fragile health in a love affair; her generosity of spirit toward her lover is matched in inverse proportion by the frugality with which her lover doles out his affections. In "The March of the Toys", a young woman flees Delaware, her chronically ill father, and her grieving mother, only to find that she's traded the neediness of her family for the harrowing disturbances of her lovers. She muses, "I couldn't affect anyone's life. I could only attend it".
In "Hualapai Dread", an investment broker's infatuation with an enigmatic Hualapai Indian woman, as elusive as she is beautiful, brings out his most predatory instincts and unmasks her own deceit. Acting on similar but more destructive impulses toward the object of his sexual obsession, a character in another story takes his soon-to-be ex-wife on a bizarre "honeymoon for divorce". The close-knit family of "Builders" breaks under the strain of constructing their dream house with their own hands, and eventually they are forced to leave behind the illusion of safety and permanence: "Once the three had imagined themselves as a house on a hill, dug into stone with the tenacity of a lion. Now they sat tensely in canvas-backed chairs stretched like slingshots. They talked cautiously, with encouragement, hoping for the return of pleasure".
Embodying the transience and openness of the New West, the characters in All My Relations reinvent themselves, even as they struggle with the age-old, perilous necessity of loving.