Friday, March 13, 2015

7 QT~ Which O'Connor Story Is For You?



I was going to come up with a fun post full of great links for you today, but I think I need to wait another week to scrounge up some really good ones!  Instead I decided to tell you about  The Complete Stories, by Flannery O'Connor which I just read and loved. Many of the stories were new to me, and several were rereads.  If you're dabbling in her stuff, where should you start? Which O'Connor story is for you? I'm here to help. Of the stories I've read, here are some recommendations for people of all kinds.

~1~

"I'm looking for a short one. A quick read that will make me laugh and introduce me to O'Connor's style. I want to know what made her tick, what made her laugh, and what kinds of things she cared about and wanted to share with the world."

Read: "A Temple of the Holy Ghost"

Oh, man this one will make you laugh out loud.  The two girls are too funny, and the things they say and experience will have you chuckling, but it will also make you think, deeply.

“She had since changed and decided to be an engineer but as she looked out the window and followed the revolving searchlight as it widened and shortened and wheeled in its arc, she felt that she would have to be much more than a doctor or an engineer. She would have to be a saint because that was the occupation that included everything you could know and yet she knew she would never be a saint. She did not steal or murder but she was a born liar and slothful and she sassed her mother and was deliberately ugly to almost everybody. She was eaten up with the sin of Pride, the worst one…”

~2~

"I'm ready for a true-blue Flannery story. Lay it on me, even if it's disturbing, painfully exposing, and grotesque in the extreme.  I want to think hard about hard issues."

Read: "The Displaced Person"

This story is so good. I gave a synopsis to my husband, and he was like, "Wow...And thank you Flannery for the that little nugget of light" (and of utter grotesqueness). Acceptance, prejudice, and harshness are among its hallmarks.

“‘You reckon he can drive a tractor if he don’t know English?’ she asked. “I don’t think she’s going to her money’s worth out of them. That boy can talk but he looks delicate. The one can work can’t talk and the one can talk can’t work. She ain’t any better off that if she had more niggers.’
‘I rather have a nigger if it was me,’ Mr. Shortley said…
‘They ain’t Eye-talians, they’re Poles’ she said… ‘from Poland where all them bodies were stacked up. You remember all them bodies?’
‘I give them three weeks here’ Mr. Shortley said.

~3~

"I want something quintessential Flannery. Something I'll remember from now until forever. I want a window into the South, with all of its prejudices and ignorance."

Read: "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

This will make you laugh and shudder. It's the one that I could only read the first half of at night, and had to finish it the next day, just in case of bad dreams.

‘He didn’t have any britches on, June Star said.
‘He probably didn’t have any,’ the grandmother explained. ’Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture.” {the grandmother} said.

~4~

"I want to understand Flannery better, and get a window into her own heart as a writer and as a person."

Read: "The Crop"

This was previously unpublished and the most autobiographical of all her stories in the Complete Works. It explores the writing process and seems an intimate reflection of her own soul.

"'The Irish!' she squealed. 'The Irish!' Miss Willerton had always admired the Irish. Their brogue, she though, was full of music and their history- splendid!... They were full of spirit...and great, drooping mustaches."

~5~

"I'm not looking for anything quintessential or special, I just want an everyday Flannery story to keep me busy and entertained."

Read: "A Stroke of Good Fortune"

With interesting characters and a true blue look at the South in O'Connor's day, this would be a good story for the everyday Flannery reader.

"Thirty-four wasn't old, wasn't any age at all. She remembered her mother at thirty-four...all those children did her mother in."

~6~

"I've read a lot of Flannery, but it's been a while and I'd love to go back to her stories and books. Where should I start?"

Read: "The Artificial Nigger"

If you're familiar with her style, and you just want a refresher on her brilliance, read this one. Actually, even if you want to begin to dabble in her stories, this one would be a pretty great place to start. A boy and his father return to the boy's birthplace. They encounter people and ideas who grate on their self-imposed construct. They discuss racism in a humorous, disturbing way.

"'Well, come on and we'll go somewhere else. We didn't come to look at niggers,' and they turned down another street but they continued to see Negroes everywhere. Nelson's skin began to prickle as they stepped along at a faster pace in order the leave the neighborhood as soon as possible.'"

~7~

"Ok, I need a good one. I need the best."

Read: "Good Country People"

Does true culture belong in the heart or the mind? For classic grotesque and deep insight into human nature, read this. It will make you squirm, but it's ok to read it right before bed. Your favorite might be different, but for me, this is an absolute must-read.

‘Wait,’ he said. He leaned the other way and pulled the valise toward him and opened it. It had a pale blue spotted lining … he took one of these out and opened the cover of it. It was hollow and contained a pocket flask of whiskey, a pack of cards, and a small blue box with printing on it. He laid these out in fromt of her one at a time in an evenly-spaced row, like one presenting offerings at the shrine of a goddess… It was not an ordinary deck but one with an obscene picture on the back of each card. ‘Take a swig,” he said….
Her voice when she spoke had an almost pleading sound. ‘Aren’t you,’ she murmured, “aren’t you just good country people?’
Her face was almost purple. ‘You’re a Christian!’ she hissed. ‘You’re a fine Christian! You’re just like them all… say one thing and do another. You’re a perfect Christian, you’re-“

Bonus ~ My Favorite needs-to-be-read-by all 

Read: "Everything That Rises Must Converge"

I also really love this one and I'm adding it at the end to remind myself. This is about the inner workings of a young man's mind and his false judgments of his mother, with a wonderful moment of self-realization at the end.


It really doesn't matter, in the end, which O'Connor story you choose, you can expect that they all "burn bright and strike deeply" (Walter Clemons). By the way, I kept my descriptions short, just in case you didn't want TMI! I hope, however, that in some small way, this makes you want to get back into her stuff!


Linking up with Kelly and her compadres today.

2 comments:

October Rose said...

I love this post!! Everything that Rises and Temple of the Holy Ghost are my favorites. I've been meaning to reread Flannery since reading her Prayer Journal, but haven't decided whether to pick up one of her novels or her short stories ... I think your post has decided me. :)

Tacy said...

Yay! Excellent taste! I've had some recommendations for Parker's Back and The Enduring Chill (via comments on fb) so I might have to write another post when I've read the other 1/5 of the book.