90 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2013
Yes, this is a short book. It includes a transcription of Flannery O'Connors prayer journal from her time at the University of Iowa writer's school. But the quality of a book should never be judged by its length.
It should be judged by its texture and depth. And for this reason I consider the book to be essential. The prayers O'Connor has written create a landscape for prayer utterly original in the Christian tradition, if also deeply embedded in it.
I am reading one prayer per night, sometimes two. They are leading me into new spiritual insights each time. I see myself in new ways through her prayers.
The book also includes a facsimile of the journal itself. It's really a pleasure to be able to see her hand-writing first hand, to imagine her as a young student writing each day in this journal.
I guarantee if you buy this book, when it arrives, you will do more than read it. You will cherish it.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2013
What the prayer journal did for me was to drive me back to my Flannery library and start all over again. I now can read her with a new insight. In Brad Gooch's marvelous biography, I had learned how much her Catholic faith meant to her in that far off place in Iowa, where she was homesick and far from her Savannah roots, where she had, in the words of William Sessions, received from her southern and Catholic world, the view of a coherent universe. Gooch tells us that Flannery told a friend that she was able to go to Mass every single morning while at the Iowa Writers workshop. She went there to Mass for three years and never met a soul, she said, nor any of the priests, but it was not necessary. "As soon as I went in the door I was at home." What I didn't know was how willing she was to take a deep plunge into the depths of Catholicism. It is fitting that William Sessions was the one who brought this hidden journal to us. In the index of "The Habit of Being," the collected letters of Flannery O'Connor, Sessions turns up 28 times. He was a trusted friend and has turned out to be O'Connor's leading expert, among hundreds of scholarly admirers. I will bet you anything Flannery never thought her personal, private journal would see the light of day. I don't think she wore her religion on her sleeve and said one time she didn't even want to be known as a Catholic writer but hoped that she would just be known as a good writer, an honest writer and a real artist. I will bet you also that she would not like to be known as a mystic but she darned sure was. Like Dorothy Day (and they were very much aware of each other), she would have scoffed at the idea of being canonized a saint. Dorothy said she hoped that they wouldn't get to trivialize her that way and I can just see Flannery's writing the same thing in one of her letters. Flannery doesn't claim to know any more about the after life than any of the rest of us. She did say in one of her letters that if all you see is God in the beatific vision, then all you will want to see is God: the statement of a mystic. You would be disappointed in this journal if you expected it to be some spiritual advice or descriptions of visions or quotable nuggets. What I got from it was a wonderful insight into the human Flannery. Flannery struggled along with the rest of us with doubts, fears and pleas for mercy. The point is she never stopped struggling and wondering. All of us who have read and reread her works can only be grateful she never stopped.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2013
O'Connor's words, spirit, and even her struggle here are deeply Catholic. She speaks my own mind for me, saying words that I would have said if I had the gift that she had. Her form of prayer, her approach to it, her persistence in it, her discouragement with her own progress, all reveal a very quintessentially Catholic spirituality. I bought this book for my literary daughter, but it has now inspired me to undertake reading O'Connor's body of literature.
Requiescat in pace, Miss O'Connor.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
Publishers didn’t present her to the literary world with her prayers. In point of fact, these weren't even known until Bill Sessions found them among other papers in 2002. She had written them in a cheap spiral notebook in 1946, six years prior to the publication of her first novel, Wise Blood. At the time she was a student in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. However much she read from her Roman Catholic prayer book, hers are decidedly non-liturgical and intensely personal. She, like us, prayed she would manage to get something published. Some don’t even sound like prayers, yet they evidence a spirit of prayer. Like many of the biblical psalms, she addresses God and then slips into talking to herself.
Arguably, these prayers might never have been published now if she hadn’t produced a wealth of other very fine literature. But, then, those other works also express her strong desire for God, although not as explicitly as these.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2013
I very much admire O'Connor's earnest desire for closer union with God so evident on each page.
Her entry on love, divine, human, and perverted, is a classic analysis of man's deepest need. This work was for me as she says Leon Bloy was for her, like an iceberg smashing her titanic in its inspirational value.
Thank you for making this accessible.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2013
A Prayer Journal is intensely personal, a loving attempt by this extraordinary genius to ask God to use her as his Christian "instrument" the same way she uses her typewriter as her "instrument." After reading the print section with its silent corrections of this "innocent speller," the facsimile in her handwriting reveals all the warmth and humanity of this fledgling writer with an immediacy that changes the experience of the book. In places humbling in its honesty, in other places laugh-out-loud funny as she confesses she is being "clever," this book is a gem, a wonderful addition to our understanding of the works of this amazing American original.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2014
Much shorter than I thought it would be, but often good things come in small packages. Hard to believe Ms. O'Connor was so young when she wrote this. I found it to be thought provoking and insightful as to the human condition. I would definitely recommend it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2014
I loved hearing,....no, rather feeling what she was thinking. I am most interested in people's private prayer journals . I think that we need to share more of them. Particularly someone we 'know' from various writings in a different mode. Thank you.
57 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
This book contains approximately 22 pages of actual content. The rest is taken up by introductory material, generous white space, and photographs of the pages of O'Connor's handwritten journals. Although it's enjoyable to see her original handwriting, and the ~22 pages of actual content is quite interesting, I feel this project is little more than an exercise in profiteering. This small amount of material could have just as easily been posted online for free. Unless you're unwaveringly committed to owning everything O'Connor's ever written, you should probably see if this is available from your local library -- you can read the entire book in less than 30 minutes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Although I’m not religious, I’d never read anything that Flannery O’Connor has written, so I chose this as my first look at her work. The book begins with an Introduction (about the author and the journal) followed by an Editor’s note explaining the edits to the journal, then the typed/edited version of the journal and, finally, the journal itself in its original format. Because it is so short (and even with several distractions notes jotted down), I read the entire journal (typed/edited version) in just under 20 minutes (which compels me suggest readers previewing a library copy before possibly purchasing). l. Perusing it afterwards in its original format was an even better experience. I enjoyed several things that she said (above and beyond the prayer-ish parts, which were lovely), especially when she: realizes and confesses a cute truth (p 6),
“But I do not mean to be clever although I so mean to be clever on 2nd thought and like to be clever & want to be considered so,” preceded and followed by a discussion of her beliefs about heaven and hell;
asks God for help with becoming an author (p 10),
“Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted,”
(this topic appears repeatedly in her journal);
and admonishes herself for not appreciating what, with God’s help, she has already accomplished (p 12),
“When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already & I haven’t been particularly grateful,” then provides a prayer of thankfulness.
She also occasionally shows her struggle with confidence, in claiming that she’s “mediocre” (p 22, 26), “Mediocrity is a hard word to apply to oneself, yet I see myself so equal with it that it is impossible not to throw it at myself–realizing even as I do that I will be old & beaten before I accept it” and “Can we ever settle on calling ourselves mediocre–me on myself?”
Of course, it’s hard not to like the last bit about gluttony and a special type of sweet.
In summary, Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal is a very short but lovely tribute. Reading it makes me want to give some of her short stories/essays a try. The strange thing is, even though I enjoyed it, I hesitated to recommend it to my Protestant friends (though did recommend it to Catholics), although I’d love to know what devout Protestants think about it. Also good: The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.