Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Closing in on the end of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor. No revelations to it, if you've read her letters and essays. The best thing about the work is its reliance on O'Connor's wit for its laugh lines. I see a mention in the acknowledgements that Conan O'Brien (whose shows I've never seen beyond perhaps a few minutes here and there) wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on O'Connor.

I always call her "Lady Flannery." Like others, I have canonized her, or at least made her accessible to writerly prayer.

I've started Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta. It began very well. I've picked this up because she was hired by Syracuse U. to teach creative writing.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if it's a Catholic thing--O'Brien coming from good Irish Catholic stock ...

(The passion for her, I mean, as opposed to a respectable level of appreciation, with reservations.)

William Preston said...

Could be, though I think you get adorers who aren't Catholic. Plenty of the stories, while they have Christian sensibilities in evidence, don't appear explicitly Catholic. In fact, she has only a few Catholic characters.

Anonymous said...

Good point.

Then maybe one has to be accustomed to and generally comfortable with overtly Christian morality as the basis for all tales. ;-)

I mean, it's fairly common to encounter a sense of sameness in the collective work of a short story writer--Salinger and Alice Munro come to mind. So then it's a question of whether that overriding moral outlook is something that you connect with, or not. Again, I'm speaking about feeling passionate about an author.

I meant to ask also: why "Lady Flannery"? Is this based on her personal letters? Her stories don't seem to convey a lady-ness.

William Preston said...

It makes sense, that O'Connor connects with her most ardent readers because of a moral vision. However, I don't care for either of the novels, and some of the stories don't work because she's too bald-faced about their purpose. She says somewhere that fiction isn't meant to convey a lesson, but a vision, and sometimes she slips into the former, when the dramatic construct doesn't support the vision.

As for "Lady": the term is a way of lifting her up, giving her a title.

William Preston said...

There's also her life story, the way she composed her works while afflicted, some of her finest at the end, and the sense of a truncated life that she knew, from the age of 25, would be truncated. Her humor and firmness complement the stories.