you go, flannery

February 25, 2010 | 6 Comments

I’m not sure how it was that I was able to live over three and a half decades without being aware of Flannery O’Connor. What I’ve learned and read of her in the last few years has me wanting to make sure others are aware of her.

(If you watch Lost, you might be familiar with O’Connor from the book cover to the right. Bonus points if you can name when it appeared on the show.)

The paragraphs below were published in an article 53 years ago called The Church and the Fiction Writer. The whole article deserves to be read, but these closing thoughts are significant not only for how Christians create art, but how they engage with it as well. When I read them, I know that she was either way before her time, or that some of us have taken a long time to catch up:

If we intend to encourage Catholic fiction writers, we must convince those coming along that the Church does not restrict their freedom to be artists but ensures it (the restrictions of art are another matter). To convince them of this requires, perhaps more than anything else, a body of Catholic readers who are equipped to recognize something in fiction besides passages that they consider obscene.

It is popular to suppose that anyone who can read the telephone book can read a short story or a novel, and it is more than usual to find the attitude among Catholics that since we possess the truth in the Church, we can use this truth directly as an instrument of judgment on any discipline at any time without regard for the nature of that discipline itself. Catholic readers are constantly being offended and scandalized by novels they don’t have the fundamental equipment to read in the first place, and often these are works that are permeated with a Christian spirit.

  • Amen and amen.

  • Thanks…actually ran across this article while trying to track down that O’Connor article you quoted a few weeks ago.

    She, most definitely, had, and still has, something to say.

  • I actually hadn’t read O’Connor until last month. Her story really is tragic, and I can’t help but wonder what her more mature writing might have been like. She really is like a rock star of the fiction world – shined bright, died young.

  • I’ve just started reading some of O’Connor’s short stories in the last year or so, and I have to say she packs quite a wollop. There was a biography that got really good reviews published just last year, I think. http://www.amazon.com/Flannery-Life-OConnor-Brad-Gooch/dp/0316000663/

  • Bill,
    Thanks for the comment. Her stories don’t necessarily fit into the “feel good story of the year” mold.

    I’ve not been to Bedouins in a while, but trying to get back in the swing of it. Maybe we’ll see each other again there soon.

  • I haven’t been to bedouins in a while, either. I think that the return of Lost played a role in that. 🙂