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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (FSG Classics) Paperback – January 1, 1969

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Editorial Reviews


“Flannery O'Connor ranks with Mark Twain and Scott Fitzgerald among our finest prose stylists. Her epigrams alone are worth the price of the book . . . which should be read by every writer and would-be writer and lover of writing.” ―John Leonard, The New York Times

“[O'Connor] was not just the best 'woman writer' of [her] time and place; she expressed something secret about America, called 'the South,' with that transcendent gift for expressing the real spirit of a culture that is conveyed by those writers . . . who become nothing but what they see. Completeness is one word for it: relentlessness [and] unsparingness would be others. She was a genius.” ―Alfred Kazin, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. O'Connor wrote two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and two story collections, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1964). Her Complete Stories, published posthumously in 1972, won the National Book Award that year, and in a 2009 online poll it was voted as the best book to have won the award in the contest's history. Her letters were published in The Habit of Being (1979). In 1988 the Library of America published her Collected Works; she was the first postwar writer to be so honored. O'Connor was educated at the Georgia State College for Women, studied writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and wrote much of Wise Blood at the Yaddo artists' colony in upstate New York. A devout Catholic, she lived most of her adult life on her family's ancestral farm, Andalusia, outside Milledgeville, Georgia, where she raised peacocks and wrote.


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Product Details

  • Series: FSG Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374508046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374508043
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Christian Engler on December 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
For anyone wanting to understand the theory and importance of writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, get this book. Flannery O' Connor delves deeply into the mystery of writing, why people do it, struggle over it, sacrifice so much of themselves in order to do it, to a slew of other fantastic bits of information and reasons. Mystery and Manners has narrowed my own overly broad understanding of why I write. It has helped me to focus, not on just the many types of writing, but also on the type of books that I read and should read in order to be a fully developed writer. O' Connor discuses a lot on voice and plot and theme; her views are so clear and exact. Any professional or novice writer will really appreciate her collection of essays. More than anything, writers will appreciate O' Connor's affirmation of their own views. They too will appreciate her understanding of the difficulty and importance of why people write. I can not praise this book enough.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Stephan Stuecklin on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
As an engineering student, I lean towards thinking of mystery as something temporary and, well, bad. The whole goal behind scientific research is to expel mystery - at least in the immediate context. Flannery O'Connor's timeless writings opened my eyes to the world beyond certainty, and I had to nod in agreement at her insightful appreciations of human quirkiness or critiques on deviatory literature teaching methods. (Of course science know uncertainty at the atomic/subatomic level, but we call that statistics.) In the end, I marvel at the little gems in this book, thoughtfully crafted by a master artist, laced with earthy truth and nitty-gritty humanness, and don't hesitate to recommend at least a library peek to anyone.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Critic on June 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Flannery O'Connor shares opinions about (mainly) writing in this collection of previously unpublished transcripts of lectures. At times the text seems unwieldy, perhaps because the editors faced the dual duties of fidelity to the original work, and a need to prune over 50 transcripts into a non-repetitious form. There is also a clever editorial sleight of hand, with the inclusion of the first essay on the peacocks and pea hens - I was confused by it at first, then half way through the book realised it set the mood, the tone of how to read the book. That after reading 'King of the Birds', we have an impression of Flannery O'Connor - that she is a stickler for detail - which informs the rest of our reading. It is an experiential understanding of what she means when she says that a story should not be dissected but read as a whole, stands as a whole, and the whole informs whatever understanding we get out of it.
Lots of delicious gems in here for anyone who wants to see the other side of Flannery O'Connor's work. In a way it is a contradiction that this book was published at all, as the author felt that the obsessions writers have about how other writers work, what other writers think about writing, was pointless. She believed that all was contained in the stories themselves. Are we going to take her advice?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. J. on November 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
"I think that every writer, when he speaks of his own approach to fiction, hopes to show that, in some crucial and deep sense, he is a realist; and for some of us, for whom the ordinary aspects of daily life prove to be of no great fictional interest, this is very difficult. I have found that if one's young hero can't be identified with the average American boy, or even with the average American delinquent, then his perpetrator will have a good deal of explaining to do."

Flannery O'Connor's "Mystery and Manners" is, to me, an indispensable text: it has acted as my writing mentor for several years. As a collection of her essays, mostly about some aspect of writing, literature, culture, or religion (the oddball here is a humorous essay describing O'Connor's traumatic experience raising peacocks), "Mystery and Manners" provides a look into the mind and purpose of a great Southern writer. I recommend that those interested in O'Connor's works read this book before diving into "Wise Blood" or "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Without a clear understanding of O'Connor's intentions, first time readers may feel as if they are being sucked into a black whirlpool by the intensity of some of her works. These essays can help leviate that shock.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is an inspiring and entertaining experience for both writers and readers of fiction. Even the more specific essays touch on general issues such as characterization and the underlying meaning in short stories. Fans of Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD and Henry James's and John Gardner's books on writing will appreciate this collection of essays.
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