Summer Reading 6/7

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, essays by Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor’s stories are too intense for summer reading, so I bought this collection of essays. I have only read four of the fourteen essays so far, but I plan to chug through in time.

The first essay, “The King of the Birds,” is entirely dedicated to her peacocks. She explains how she bought her first pair of peacocks, and to the chagrin of her family, they multiplied to a flock of forty. The peacocks demand reverence—except when “one will chase himself, end his frenzy with a spirited leap into the air, and then stalk off as if he had never been involved in the spectacle” (14). Halfway through the essay I wanted to buy a pair for myself, but I thought better of it.

Most of the essays deal with fiction, faith, and the South. In her essay “Novelist and Believer,” she states that any novelist writes “with the whole personality” (156). Her Christianity spills naturally into her stories, because faith and literature inevitably intertwine.

Here is a snippet:

The novelist doesn’t write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, a total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul (167).

(Flannery O’Connor also wrote incredible short stories, which you can find here)


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