I’m very slowly making my way through Flannery: A Life Of Flannery O’Connor, a biography by Brad Gooch. She’s such an odd person that I’ve noticed I’m slipping comments about her in your blog posts. What I’ve learned so far comes from Gooch’s book: Mary Flannery O’Connor was a Catholic living in Georgia during a time when and in place where Catholicism had recently been illegal and these worshipers were the minority.
Falling in love with birds at a young age, O’Connor was actually first famous for appearing in a brief film in which she demonstrated that she had taught her chicken to walk backwards. I think it’s unfortunate that all the animals following her chicken go backwards too, because the film was played in reverse, undermining her prized pet’s backward strut.
As she grew older, O’Connor was a difficult student. She almost failed home economics until her teacher insisted she produce something to earn a passing grade. O’Connor brought in the complete suit she had sewn at home for her chicken.
I’m not terribly far into the biography; I read one small section per night before I zonk out. However, as I’ve made O’Connor comments on your blogs, many of you noted that, like me, you own Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories.
Included in this chunky book are thirty-one O’Connor originals, including previously unpublished works. My favorite feature is the stories are organized chronologically, with “The Geranium” being her first published piece and “Judgement Day” being the last sent off just before her death.
Here’s the plan:
There are thirty-one days in May and thirty-one stories in The Complete Stories. I shall read one each day and put up a review for the chunk of stories I read the following week (I’m always posting on Tuesday and Thursday in 2020). My hope is I can keep track of whether O’Connor improved in her writing or changed dramatically — that sort of thing. Is there a big shift?
If you join along, you’re welcome to leave your comments on my blog, write your own reviews of each story or a chunk of stories, or write one final review when you’re finished. Whatever you like! My goal with a read-along is simply getting other people to read the same thing with me around the same time so that we have something in common. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments.
If you don’t own The Complete Stories or can’t find a copy, many of these stories are published elsewhere. I’m including a list of titles if you want to jump in and back out at any point.
- The Geranium
- The Barber
- The Crop
- The Turkey
- The Train
- The Peeler
- My review posted May 12th
- The Heart of the Park
- A Stroke of Good Fortune
- Enoch and the Gorilla
- A Good Man is Hard to Find
- A Late Encounter with the Enemy
- The Life You Save May Be Your Own
- The River
- My review posted May 19th
- A Circle in the Fire
- The Displaced Person
- A Temple of the Holy Ghost
- The Artificial Nigger*
- Good Country People
- You Can’t Be Any Poorer Than Dead
- My review posted May 26th
- A View of the Woods
- The Enduring Chill
- The Comforts of Home
- Everything That Rises Must Converge
- The Partridge Festival
- The Lame Shall Enter First
- Why Do the Heathen Rage?
- My review posted June 2nd
- Parker’s Back
- Judgement Day
- My review and final thoughts posted June 9th
*I do not believe in censoring writers, as censorship is one of the most dangerous slippery slopes in a democracy.
I taught The Autobiography of Malcolm X for many years to college students, including a those who were black, white, and brown; spoke English as a second language; were from North America, South America, Europe, Asia; and those who were incarcerated — and was able to navigate conversations about race using a text that included racial slurs such as the one O’Connor uses in her short story title above without using the racial slurs myself. Opening the conversation and asking students what they should say and when is most important (check out this PBS article on Huck Finn in classrooms.
This is all to say that when I quote O’Connor’s words (such as the title), I won’t censor them, but when I’m writing my own thoughts, I will not use racial slurs.