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330 Mississippi Quarterly Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons, edited by Kelly Gerald. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2012. ix, 141 pp. $22.95. PUBLICATION OF THIS GATHERING OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR’S CARTOONS from her high school and college years is cause for celebration. O’Connor’s readers are wont to chuckle over descriptions of her characters, and teachers frequently mention her habit of seeing them as cartoons. From childhood onward, she drew images to accent what might also be said through words. Thanks to Kelly Gerald, readers can now realize in depth the connection between O’Connor’s cartoon habit and her vision of the world and more fully understand her genius. The cartoons date from O’Connor’s years at Peabody High School and at Georgia State College for Women. They appeared regularly in The Peabody Palladium (the student newspaper) and, more extensively, in The Colonnade (the student newspaper at Georgia State College for Women); she became art editor of both. At the college she had multiple opportunities to display her skills. The Alumnae Journal reprinted cartoons from The Colonnade and added two others drawn just for the journal. It dubbed O’Connor “The Cartoon Girl.” O’Connor’s cartoons also enhanced the pages of The Corinthian, the college’s journal for creative writing and the arts. Her work for The Spectrum, the annual yearbook, culminated in 1945, her senior year, when she served as feature editor. Alumnae looking back at their years at GSCW can do so by revisiting O’Connor’s depiction in picture and word of life in “Jessieville.” (“Jessies” was the affectionate name for women at the college; “Jimmies” populated Milledgeville’s Georgia Military College.) The rich totality depicts the aspirations and talents of their creator. Barry Moser’s introduction explains the process of linoleum prints, the medium O’Connor used to create the cartoons, and judges the work with the eyes of the professional artist and printmaker. Though the prints are “unpolished,” Moser appreciates a sustained style and the skill at creating gesture. Skillfully, he makes the process of lithograph art (cut backward to move forward) metaphoric for the fiction O’Connor would write. Kelly Gerald, whose Ph.D. dissertation examined O’Connor’s cartoons, follows the cartoon gallery with a splendid survey of O’Connor’s aspirations during the formative years when the satirical cartoonist envisioned a career in journalism. Gerald identifies the 331 Book Reviews influences that helped shape O’Connor’s practices in the cartoon medium, being careful to ground the reader in the circumstances of O’Connor’s life, the community, and the institutions she attended. Always, Gerald is aware that the marvel lies in the fiction the prints anticipate. But the pleasure in these prints just for themselves cannot be denied. They reward many visits and invite many perspectives. We do not view them in the same way that their first viewers, O’Connor’s classmates, did. Those viewers did not see them as a collection, but they soon recognized a familiar perspective that critiqued their lives and their times. They looked forward to the arrival of the bi-weekly paper carrying the distinctive cuts with inscription by “MFOC,” just as elsewhere readers anticipated the signature cartoons of James Thurber or Bill Mauldin. Viewing them together now, we realize how the young Mary Flannery O’Connor, an only child who grew up in highly protectivecircumstances,livingathomethroughhercollegegraduation, distinguished herself on campus. When she graduated, she had an entry in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. After their first tour through the gallery, readers will want to revisit, now keeping a finger on the “Art Credit” section at the end of the book. It notes the outlet where the cartoon first appeared and provides information about its circumstances or setting. Looking more closely, we appreciate not only the fun of the images, but young Mary Flannery’s questioning mind. Several cartoons anticipate later concern about American education, a theme she would confront in her fiction and lectures. The women attending GSCW were preparing to be teachers. Like Sally Poker of “A Late Encounter with the Enemy,” O’Connor took courses in Education, presumably to teach Social Science, her major. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 330-333
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-27
Open Access
No
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