Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All Hail Flannery O'Connor ... Our Book Club Tentatively Approaches Her Short Stories

Wow, what a great meeting! The meeting time is from 7 - 9 p.m., but didn't stop talking until around 10:30. That is how much Flannery O'Connor's five short stories engaged us.
  • Revelation
  • The Artificial Nigger
  • A Temple of the Holy Ghost
  • Good Country People
  • The Enduring Chill
Amazing. Especially since I'd always been rather frightened of them because I'd heard they dwelt on the grotesque. Naturally no one ever bothered mentioning that each story has a moment of grace and at least a signpost toward redemption, if not the actual moment itself.

Also, no one ever mentioned how very real the characters were in her stories. I felt I knew people just like them. Sometimes, if we were honest, we could see reflections of ourselves in some facets of those characters as well. I did discover that her stories are perhaps best when shared. Things I had pondered alone became clearer when discussed and some things became downright hilarious when read aloud, which we did a lot of. (I am now wondering if I have to read some of a certain story to Tom, because I am very much afraid that "If Jesus made me choose between ... " is now a part of my short-hand code for hilarious. Honestly, y'all, please do read Revelation, if you don't ever read another Flannery O'Connor story.

Long story short, I put a book of her short stories on my Amazon wish list. A thing I never thought I'd do. Never.

Next month — on Flannery's Trail
We will be reading The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O'Connor's Spiritual Journey by Lorraine V. Murray (my review here). The stories we read are specifically discussed in this biography of her life and faith, so there will be a dove-tailing of what we discussed last night with next month's discussions. (We couldn't find the sixth story, mostly because I now realize I had thought it was called The Misfit, when actually he is a character in A Good Man is Hard to Find. Oh well.) I am really looking forward to rereading how the author connects the stories with Flannery's life. It will surely bring new facets to light of her fascinating writing.

Just a note if you live in Dallas ... this is a Catholic women's book club and we have a relaxed attitude toward the whole thing. You don't have to have read the book, as long as you don't mind if the rest of us talk about spoilers, and we welcome drop-ins. The link has the scoop and if you are interested and have questions my email is julie [@] glyphnet [dot] com.


  1. You have to read the F O'C story about the evangelist who puts out his own eyes. "Wise Blood" - that's it. Fabulous. They made a movie of it, too.

  2. See, it's details like self-blinding (or things about prosthetic legs being stolen) that are off putting. :-D

  3. Julie, I'm so glad you discovered Flanner O'Conner's short stories! In my THEO 101 course back in college, we read the group of short stories you list here. The stories are very real and the conversation that they start is amazing - even among a group of college kids! I might just dig out that book and re-read a few this summer! ...and then check out the bio.

  4. Try "Parker's Back." It's my candidate for best short story of all time.

  5. I read Wise Blood. Didn't grab me. I think there must be people who only read books on a symbolic level -- who don't really care if character or plot work out.

    I'm not one of them.

    I haven't given up hope though -- maybe it's like olives? something you learn to appreciate?

  6. That might be the case because I know that by the time I'd worked my way through those five stories I had seen a pattern of thinking (in a way) that helped a lot when rereading the story I began with. It opened up to me a bit more, so to speak. But I have heard that Wise Blood is very difficult.