If you are or were an English major in college, then chances are that you have read a Flannery O’Connor short story, and double chances are that the short story in question was “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” arguably one of her finest (and I defend that argument, by the way). I’d also read “The River” and “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” (seriously, nobody does titles better than Flannery), but I knew she had a whole collection. I requested it for Christmas, and I received a gorgeous volume in return.
There isn’t necessarily a cohesive thread to this collection, but O’Connor deals a lot with religious practice and faith, identity, and what it means to be in the South. Her work on children and families also explores the dark side of human nature—how dark, you can only guess. Many, many stories are utterly fantastic and dark, some you won’t have expected. While she writes children well and reminiscent of Carson McCullers’ The Member at the Wedding (which is also dark and fantastic—I also liked it better than The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, if I’m being honest), she also writes women in nuanced, complex ways. O’Connor also deals with issues of race, and I’m going to have to read more about the concept of race in her work and how it was received, both then and now. That’s one question I am left with this read-through.
I had a sleepless night during my read, and I decided to pick through a story or two. Mistake. While O’Connor doesn’t deal directly in horror, the dark side of human nature is horrifying enough to keep you awake for hours. And that’s her mad genius at play.
Cross-posted to my blog.