- Flannery O’Connor: Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity by Timothy J. Basselin, and: Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction by Thomas F. Haddox, and: Passing by the Dragon: The Biblical Tales of Flannery O’Connor by J. Ramsey Michaels (review)
- Christianity & Literature
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 63, Number 2, Winter 2014
- pp. 295-298
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 295 Flannery O'Connor: Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity. By Timothy J. Basselin. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-60258-765-6. Pp. 158.$29.95 Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric ofChristian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction. By Thomas F. Haddox. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780 -8142-9310-2. Pp. 218. $59.95 Passing by the Dragon: The Biblical Tales of Flannery O'Connor. By J. Ramsey Michaels. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-62032-223-9. Pp. xi + 212. $22.00 When I (Jessica) was in graduate school, a professor at another university advised me not to write my dissertation on Flannery O'Connor. "Everything has been done on O'Connor;' she told me. I bristled at this assertion in disbelief. Almost a decade later, it still is not true. O'Connor scholars, students, and fans have all found new lenses that, when directed at her life and oeuvre, bring new discoveries into focus. Two of the books reviewed here solely attend to O'Connor and her fiction-J. Ramsey Michaels' Passing by theDragon considers her fiction as interpretations of Scripture, and Timothy J.Basselin's Flannery O'Connor: Writinga Theology of Disabled Humanity (reviewed by Stratman) discusses her work in light ofher theology and her illness. Thethird book, HardSayings by Thomas F. Haddox, offers O'Connor as one in a lineup of six modern writers who possibly-though unintentionally-undermined Christian Orthodoxy through their rhetoric. As a biblical scholar by profession, Michaels approaches O'Connor as one of her many fans, though one with a history of teaching O'Connor at seminaries, sometimes co-teaching her alongside a Rabbi or a literature professor, or learning about her at a conference at a Benedictine monastery-somehow I think O'Connor would have appreciated the variety of settings. Michaels acknowledges common readings ofO'Connor's work and attempts not to reiterate familiar interpretations of her stories but rather contest them when necessary or lend biblical support. Within a couple hundred pages, he tries to assess all of her fiction, except for "A Stroke of Good Fortune" and '~ Late Encounter with the Enemy" because he acknowledges that making a case for their biblical themes may "sound like a special pleading" (20). The humility in such an assertion should gain the reader's confidence that here is a scholar who does not force O'Connor's works to comply with a set rubric for reading. In a 1963 letter, O'Connor advised a graduate student to write her thesis on the "Bible and what it means for my fiction" (Emory. MARBL. Folder 13. Letter to LaTrelle Blackburn. Feb. 14, 1963). If this student followed O'Connor's advice, 296 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE it was never disseminated for public consumption; thankfully, Michaels fillsin the gap. While he contends that O'Connor was not an "inveterate Bible reader" and adheres to William Sessions' assertion that O'Connor primarily sought Christian meaning through Catholic Mass, he neglects to draw the connection between the two: in Catholic Mass, most of the Bibleis read over a three-year period. Based on O'Connor's supposed Mass attendance, she would have heard the entire Biblemore than a dozen times over the course of her life. Michaels does walk through how O'Connor read the Bible,delineating not only the passages that receive her marks and annotations from her library, but also her reviews of biblical commentaries, scriptural references in her letters and lectures, and, of course, allusions within her stories. In fact, Michaels argues that her stories may be analogous narratives of the Bible-"a kind of rewritingof Scripture"-that would speak to contemporary readers (9). Within his examination of O'Connor's readers, Michaels makes a claim that he does not explore further but one that Haddox takes up for the majority of his chapter on O'Connor in Hard Sayings: "O'Connor herself seems to have assumed that those who are familiar with the Biblein all its earthly realism and dark violence are those least likely to be shocked by her fiction and best equipped to understand it" (19). If O'Connor assumed that Bible...