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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor Paperback – August 1, 1988


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Frequently Bought Together

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor + A Prayer Journal + The Complete Stories
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (August 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374521042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374521042
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"To compare her with the great letter writers in our language may seem presumptuous and would have elicited from her one of her famous steely glances, but Byron, Keats, Lawrence, Wilde and Joyce come irresistibly to mind: correspondence that gleams with consciousness."
--The New York Times
 
"These hundreds of letters give O'Connor's tough, funny, careful personality to us more distinctly and movingly than any biography probably would... Remarkable and inspiring."
--Kirkus Reviews

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 60-year history. Her essays were published in Mystery and Manners (1969). 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. She lived most of her adult life on her family’s ancestral farm, Andalusia, outside Milledgeville, Georgia.

More About the Author

Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, the only child of Catholic parents. In 1945 she enrolled at the Georgia State College for Women. After earning her degree she continued her studies on the University of Iowa's writing program, and her first published story, 'The Geranium', was written while she was still a student. Her writing is best-known for its explorations of religious themes and southern racial issues, and for combining the comic with the tragic. After university, she moved to New York where she continued to write. In 1952 she learned that she was dying of lupus, a disease which had afflicted her father. For the rest of her life, she and her mother lived on the family dairy farm, Andalusia, outside Millidgeville, Georgia. For pleasure she raised peacocks, pheasants, swans, geese, chickens and Muscovy ducks. She was a good amateur painter. She died in the summer of 1964.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Reading this book was a labor of love.
Tamara Hill Murphy
Throughout this book you will see a thoughtful, kind, and analytical artist love on her work and her friends--in the most natural, uninhibited way.
Amazon Customer
Flannery O'Connor is not only a great writer, but also a witty and very critical friend to her to her friends.
Anthonius Danenberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
THE HABIT OF BEING is required reading for any Flannery O'Connor fan. Nobody can explain Flannery like Flannery. Through her letters the reader has an immediate connection to the writer and the woman, and that connection made me regret even more that I did not know her personally. Sally Fitzgerald includes letters that show Flannery's human side, her cranky side, her funny side, even her arrogant side. I read the letters before the identity of A was revealed, and I was intrigued. I went back and read them again after that identify was made public, and I'm even more intrigued. To understand fully what Flannery was attempting in her stories, one needs to read the letters. To understand fully what she was attempting in her life, one needs to read the letters. No satisfactory biography has been written about Flannery O'Connor, but I'm not sure that one is necessary when we have at least a start at an autobiography with THE HABIT OF BEING.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Flannery wrote under a death sentence, and it seems inescapable that she expected - or at least hoped and imagined - that these letters would be published. Thus, they are written to you, dear reader, as much as to anyone. And they are superb. This is Flannery at her best. If you, like so many, are enthralled by her works, you will find this book essential. If you suspect that some of the self-appointed and so-called experts on her work could benefit from a strong laxative and are curious to find out what she herself really had in mind in her various stories, you will find this book immensely rewarding. And if you imagine that you might enjoy the musings of a soul whose wisdom, character, and intellect were each exceptional, you will find this book compelling.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Stephen E. Adams on September 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Flannery O'Connor's correspondence is a fine testimony to humor, faith, and work in the life of a fascinating and absolutely unswerving human being. As she says in a letter to Andrew Lytle from this collection, the fact that she was a Catholic kept her from being a regional writer and the fact that she was a Southerner kept her from being a Catholic writer. If you want the best tutorial you're apt to ever read on how to write fiction, forget the usual "Write a Novel in 30 Days" garbage and get a copy of THE HABIT OF BEING. She'll also teach you quite a bit about living.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Leslie J. Roberts on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My thirty-five-year-old copy of this book is worn to tatters, and not just because of O'Connor's killer sense of humor. When overwhelmed by it all, this book does the trick. These letters won't be what her readers expect. True, they are ironic, economical, vivid, and eccentric. But their eccentricity runs not to blood, evil, and delusions; it runs to peacock farming. And--although a few noted writers are correspondents-- O'Connor mainly recounts the daily routines: setting the table, collecting the mail, entertaining the neighbors, reading the latest book. But seen through her eyes, these events are page-turners. Meanwhile, without one grain of saccharine, she conveys her acceptance, contentment, and steely dedication to writing while crippled with lupus (which killed her before she was forty.) But no bitterness here. Not only do you get absorbed in the writing; your own problems become trivial. By the way, aside from being one of the best writers I've ever read, she may also be the most authentically southern. By this I don't mean she's from the south. I mean she nails southern speech without ever resorting to embarassing attempts at "dialect."
If you're from the south too, you'll know what I mean.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is wonderful. If you're interested in O'Connor, you should definitely read it. AND, if you're NOT interested in O'Connor, this will make you interested in her. This book gives meaning to all her other stories.

I thought the title, "The Habit of Being" was extremely strange. But as you read it, it becomes very clear why a) it was titled that and b) O'Connor exemplified that motto.

Throughout this book you will see a thoughtful, kind, and analytical artist love on her work and her friends--in the most natural, uninhibited way. She spells words wrong. She speaks of her failing health. She talks about life on the farm. In the next letter it'll be theology and Aristotle though. It's beautiful and you will learn a lot from it.

That said...it's almost 600 pages long. BUT, I couldn't put it down.

She's witty and extremely funny too.

One of her best friends complied this set of letters to share the real Flannery with the public. That she did, and it is a blessing indeed.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "blackstonejch" on February 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Flannery is a beautiful person; reading these letters you feel like you are conversing with a personal friend and hope you get the chance to meet her; you can't help but wish you could have had the chance to correspond with her.
After years of loving her fiction, I found that, in these letters, her fiction and her soul unveil their beauty --- just like her beloved peafowl.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on May 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
is like the impact of violence," Flannery O'Connor once wrote, which doesn't explain her stories but does help illuminate them. Having read her short stories and seen the cult film of Wise Blood, I nevertheless approached her letters gingerly. However, they hail from a time and tradition when letter writing was not only an art but a means of expression and communication. She works out a lot of the ideas she's writing about in her letters, which makes reading the finished works that much more fascinating.

O'Connor raised peacocks and lived on a farm in Georgia, but she also had lupus, an incurable disease. She's not sentimental about it (or about most things); she'd be a candidate for a Catholic realist (if there is such a category). Almost any writer or reader will find these letters fascinating for what they reveal about O'Connor and her method of working. Almost any spiritually-minded reader will find them equally intriguing for her insights on the human condition. Because Protestants don't have sacraments (Catholics have seven sacraments, Protestants have two), she once suggested, they have to make everything up as they go along. That seems to me to be the case in some post-modern churches where, it would seem, anything goes. But it would be incorrect, as Ralph Wood shows in Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-haunted South, to think she therefore held the fundamentalists who people her books in disdain, as did liberal Protestants and much of society in her time. Her generous nature is one reason so many are returning to reading O'Connor, and so many new readers are discovering her.
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