- Understanding Flannery O'Connor, and: Flannery O'Connor The Woman, the Thinker, the Visionary, and: Writing against God Language as Message in the Literature of Flannery O'Connor (review)
- Southern Cultures
- The University of North Carolina Press
- Volume 3, Number 4, 1997
- pp. 103-111
- View Citation
- Additional Information
race, economy, sports, food, voodoo priestesses, famous duels, the New Orleans red-light districts, Mafia lynchings, etc. It is easy to quarrel with the choice of some of these selections, some clearly more important than others, though the book sets out, quite successfully, to capture the culture and notorieties of the state as much as its history and economy. The sections on politics, economy, religion , and race, for example, are too abbreviated to provide more than bare summary -outlines, but I learned something interesting and valuable in every chapter. As a north Louisianian, I would have preferred a larger portion treating the world above Baton Rouge, though the authors redeem themselves in part with their final chapters on each of the seven major regions of the state. If someone asked me for a general introductory book on the complex realities of self-contradictory Louisiana, this one would top my list. Understanding Flannery O'Connor By Margaret Earley Whitt University of South Carolina Press, 1995 261 pp. Cloth, $34.95 Flannery O'Connor The Woman, the Thinker, the Visionary By Ted R. Spivey Mercer University Press, 1995 178 pp. Cloth, $25.00; paper $17.95 Writing against God Language as Message in the Literature of Flannery O'Connor ByJoanne Halleran McMullen Mercer University Press, 1996 1 5 2 pp. Cloth, $2 5.00 Reviewed by Rachel V. Mills, East Carolina University. Mills, who received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a teacher and a poet. Mary Flannery O'Connor, of Savannah and Milledgeville, Georgia, left in her short life an amazing inheritance parading as southern fiction. Going north to write, she attracted considerable attention in the Iowa writers program and spent Reviews 103 valuable time with other appreciative writers and teachers. But thwarted by lupus, she returned to her mother's care in Georgia, where she continued to write and corresponded with a broad spectrum of people, many of whom became close friends with her and with each other through her. Her fiction—two novels, Wise 5/00^(1952) and The ViolentBearItAway (i960); two collections of short stories, A GoodMan Is Hardto Find(1955) and Everything thatRisesMust Converge (1965)— assumes the mystery of contradiction with the same aplomb that she accepted the contradictory manners of southern tradition. She wrote sharply and deeply about moral and religious crises in characters whose nobility the classical writers would have denied, but whose indigenousness to the contemporary world is never in doubt. Her language—a rich amalgam of social idiom and religious fervor —is more complex than that of her immediate predecessors, Faulkner and Welty, though her life, equally complex of thought, belief, and endurance, barely reached forty years. Aside from the fiction, we have a small gathering ofessays and speeches, published posthumously as Mystery andManners (1969), and a prolific, though partial, collection ofletters, The Habit ofBeing (1979), which resurrect the author in complicated conversations about life and art. We are still waiting for a biography to illuminate the rest, but meanwhile we keep reading her stories, trying to map her fictional consciousness, though we fail, mostly, because, as she predicted, we don't have the right perspective. Even when we can accept—without necessarily believing—the Catholic import of her tales, we lose ourselves in the severity of the moral message. Stop floundering, she would tell us, exasperated, as ifwe were one of those fishes who wouldn't lie still long enough to make the multitudes Jesus required. Take hold of these stories and take heed. I didn't know what to do with these three recent books on Flannery O'Connor until I remembered her brave note to Cecil Dawkins about some published criticism of her mentor Caroline Gordon's work: "To tell you the truth I didn't even read all the articles in that Critique" she tells her new friend. "I never remember a critical piece fifteen minutes after I've read it anyway." Good thing. These three works would have given her apoplexy. Treating a writer so sharp-tongued and richly iconoclastic as O'Connor, they are oddly out of shape for exercising her texts, her life, and her literary idiosyncrasies. Not that each...