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Monday, June 13, 2011

Flannery O'Connor: The Writer's Writer

                            Flannery O'Connor: 
 One of America's Greatest Fiction Writers
             This week I'm paying tribute to Flannery O'Connor.   It's not her birthday or any special anniversary, but recently I finished a biography of this author.  The book was part of my Holiday reading list during my Christmas vacation this past December.  I started reading this book last September (2010) and finally finished it in May.  It was not a book I read straight through, but one that I kept going back to between other books I've been reading.

             If you're not familiar with Flannery O'Connor's work, I highly recommend that you check out her short stories.  Some call her America's greatest Catholic author, while others rank her among the top figures of Southern Literature.  Though her work most often deals with religious themes and typically takes place in the South, the stories are often bizarre, horrific, and even ludicrous.  This literature goes beyond any restriction of denomination or region and is truly universal in theme.  She is a must-read for any student of American Literature or anyone who appreciates writing of the highest caliber.

 My Commentary on Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch

 A Life of Flannery  O'Connor
             This is not an exciting book in the sense of action and adventure, but it is a very interesting story of a woman's journey to discovering her talent as a writer and becoming one of the most critically acclaimed American authors of the mid-twentieth century.  The story begins with Flannery's childhood in Savannah, Georgia and later continues to her Milledgeville, Georgia home with which she is most often associated.  Brad Gooch portrays this early life in vivid detail and effectively captures Southern life at this time.

           We follow Flannery through her college days during which she aspires to become a cartoonist, but through encouragement from those who recognize her writing talent she is accepted into the Iowa Writer's Workshop where she develops associations with literary notables who assist her on her road to publication.  As her reputation flourishes in the writing community, she lives a life of modest literary fame and high acclaim from many.  Her struggle with the disease of lupus brings her life to an early end in 1964 when she is only 39 years of age.

           Brad Gooch has done a commendably thorough job of researching O'Connor's life through letters, newspaper and magazine articles, and interviews with those who knew her.   The detail at times is nearly overwhelming, but all the better to bring us close to the author.  Of particular interest to those who are authors or who have aspirations of one day being published is O'Connor's writing journey and what influenced her stories.

            Flannery O'Connor may not be a household name, but her work has exerted a wide influence on modern literature.  One can find great similarities to O'Connor in the work of authors such as Cormac McCarthy.  The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction is given yearly by the University of Georgia Press.  Over the past fifty years hundreds of articles and dissertations have appeared discussing her work.  Since her death her stature as a literary giant has continued to grow.  Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor provides an in depth look at who this author is and where she came from.


Here's a video tribute to Flannery O'Connor made by a young lady by the name of Lauren Cater:

              On Wednesday I will be giving some of my thoughts on Flannery O'Connor's short story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge.  I hope you will return for that.  You can find some of Flannery O'Connor's stories online.   Or better yet, purchase one or all of her books--they are well worth having in your library collection.

              Have you read any of Flannery O'Connor's works?   What's your opinion?

              If anyone is having withdrawals from the A to Z Challenge and is looking for another Challenge that will be a bit lighter than the April Challenge, my niece Stephanie from What's So Random is inviting everyone to join her in  a short Challenge that will begin this Wednesday.   You can read about it here and let Stephanie know you heard it at Tossing It Out.



  1. No, I've not read any of her books!

  2. I've not heard of Flannery O'Connor. I keep picking up recommendations from blogs and I want to read them all!

  3. She sounds amazing; I haven't heard of her, but will check out her stories~ So sad, she died too young~

    Thanks Lee for shining the spotlight on this talent! I will be back on Wednesday~

  4. I've never heard of her, but as usually I liked your review on her book, Lee!

    Your whole family is in blogging business, Lee? :))

  5. I've heard of her, but don't think I've read anything by her. I'll have to remedy that.

  6. Flannery O'Connor is a MUST READ for anyone who has even contemplated writing short stories. Oh, & for those who love to read short stories. & for people who love to read Southern lit.

  7. I had not heard of her until your post. What an honor it would be, to have yourself remembered 60 years after your death.

  8. Alex -- You really should check out some of her stories!

    Jabblog -- Must read!!!

    Ella -- I think you might really appreciate her stories.

    Dezmond -- A few family members have been doing some blogging. I wonder if O'Connor has been translated into Serbian?

    M Pax -- O'Connor is definitely worth an investment of time. One or two stories and I think you'll be wanting more.

    Lisa from Nadir -- Thank you! You are obviously familiar with her work.

    4444 -- She is remembered because of her well-regarded reputation in scholastic literary circles and that reputation is due to the greatness of her writing.


  9. I've never heard of Flannery O'Connor. Thanks for introducing her to us. And I do like short stories! I'll check our Stephanie's Challenge.

  10. Only 39 . . . I didn't realize that she died so young!

  11. I loved the tribute to her Lee...I thought it was awesome to hear her describe her writing in her own words. I think it is very cool that she wrote what she wanted and didn't care about others opinions. Wow I haven't read anything by her.. but she sounds like she was ahead of her time. It is so sad she died so young! I appreciate you introducing her to us!
    Happy Monday...

  12. Great recommendation! I have heard of O'Connor, but I have not read her work. I will be looking for some of her short story collections. Thanks!!

  13. I adore Flannery O' Connor's works. I just re-read "Wise Blood" a few months ago. Really, she should be on everyone's reading list. My humble opinion, but a lot of people struggle with Faulkner - O' Connor is similar in some ways but easier reading.

  14. Stephen -- Try one of her stories. I think you may appreciate the themes she explores.

    Mama Z -- Sad isn't it. Just think what she might have written if she'd had at least a few more years and especially if she were still living today.

    Lisa Fishy-- I too like that she was independent in her thinking. I think she was a product of her time more than ahead of her time. She was writing about the issues that were current and still remain relevant today.

    Artistry -- Check online for some samples and then if you like her buy her books. They are stories than deserve to be read more than once.

    Li -- You are right! Definitely easier to read than Faulkner and many of her contemporaries, but still of the same vein of writing.


  15. Thanks for posting this. I haven't read anything by her but after reading about her I feel like I should.

  16. I don't think I've read her, but I do like the way you described her stories. She sounds very interesting.

  17. I love biographies but have never heard of this lady. Thanks for sharing.

    Mine teaser is here

  18. I have heard of this author, but I haven't read any of her work - I think my mom has some of her stuff though. I'll have to check it out :)

  19. I've read some of her, I think. Really makes the south in all its glory and difficulties.

  20. I remember reading a couple of her shorts in HS and college, most notably "A Good Man is Hard to Find," but can't say I've read anything by her recently.
    My Teaser

  21. Carrie -- I think she's worth the effort.

    Helen -- If you like Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, or Poe you will probably appreciate her writing. If not, you may still find something in her stories that those other writers lack.

    KB -- The biography is probably of greatest interest to writers or O'Connor fans. It is a fascinating study.

    Jemi -- Definitely check her out.

    Raquel -- Her stories are frequently studied in certain college courses, but otherwise not very mainstream, though I don't understand why not.

    Heather -- She has left a small body of work that is pretty easy to read in a short time. "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" is certainly her most well known work, but I don't think it's her best. But it is darn good!


  22. why have I not heard of her? She sounds like someone I'd definitely read! thanks for sharing.

  23. You know, I've known OF her for, it seems like my whole life but I've never picked up one of her books. I need to do that, obviously!

  24. I love Flannery O'Connor - I have never thought of her as a Catholic writer but just as a damn good one! I think she new how to evoke a sensibility in her prose that is unique and marvelous. I like where her stories send me. Thanks for this, Lee, so good.

  25. I'm a massive fan of Flannery O'Connor. Love love LOVE her writing! Thanks for the tribute!

  26. Now this is a shame! I have a master's degree in American literature and am a southerner born and raised but never read O'Connor. In the 60s was into the anti-hero and protest works! Thanks for your reminder of a more reflective writer.

    My TT is Scandinavian crime fiction: Camilla Lackberg's "The Ice Princess". Link: Summit Musings

  27. Nutschell -- Read at least one story and let me know what you think.

    Pam -- The stories can be read over and over and you gain new insight to what she's saying.

    Jan -- Her Catholicism was new to me when I read the biography. Due to the content of the stories and her Southern background I would have associated her more with a Protestant denomination. Her stories do send the reader to a totally unique realm.

    Taio --Yes it is. Have you read it?

    Talli -- Every writer should have at least some familiarity with Flannery.

    Faye -- That is a surprise. O'Connor is such a mainstay of Southern Lit studies. Much of her work has a great deal to do with issues related to the Civil Rights movement and her heroes are definitely of the anti variety.


  28. i've never heard of her nor read anything by her will have to check things out

    Everyday Life

  29. You know, I don't recall reading any of her work recently, but may have long ago. I appreciate your thoughts; will have to check this and her other works out. Thanks, Lee!

  30. I've never heard of her. I have to say after reading this I'm so intrigued. I will be checking out her work. Thanks for sharing this.

  31. Sounds interesting. I'll have to check out some of her stories. It's tragic that she died so young. Julie

  32. I read one story by her several years ago, and it really stood out to me....
    Been meaning to find more of her material, and now I think I just might.

  33. Great post, Lee. Nice video too. I'm definitely going to check out some of her stories now.

  34. Yes! I've read Flannery O'Connor! I was thrilled to see this post! In fact I have a book with three of her stories sitting right here on my desk.

    I would love to read this biography. Does it discuss her Catholic upbringing and how that influenced her work?

    The story I most remember is The Violent Bear It Away and the character of Old Tarwater (what a fabulous name!)

    If you are familiar with O'Connor, are you also familiar with Carson McCullers? If not, I highly recommend her work as well.

  35. Excellent post and tribute to a superb writer. One can only imagine how many more compelling stories she could have written.


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