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The Complete Stories (FSG Classics) Paperback – January 1, 1971
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“What we lost when she died is bitter. What we have is astonishing: the stories burn brighter than ever, and strike deeper.” ―Walter Clemons, Newsweek
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) and her letters 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. She lived most of her adult life on her family's ancestral farm, Andalusia, outside Milledgeville, Georgia.
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I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I was unfamiliar with Flannery O'Connor until the last few years. I attribute this to the fact that she is not discussed contemporaneously with other American iconic authors. I first heard of her when I was studying a book on literature by Harold Bloom and he discussed her work. I had begun reading work by William Faulkner and at first was unsettled by his style. Slowly I have begun to gain an appreciation the genre of "Southern Gothic". Flannery O'Connor has her own style which includes, but is not limited to Southern Gothic.
Flannery O'Connor has a wry sense of ironic humor which manifests itself throughout her work and can suddenly emerge out of nowhere and surprise the reader. An example of this is the short story "The Crop". At the same time some of her short stories stun me with their violence. Sometimes the two combine as at the end of "A Good Man is Hard to Find". I am not learned enough to know where to place Flannery O'Connor compared to other Southern Gothic authors, but she may be my favorite, with Harper Lee and Carson McCullers close behind.
You can't make it through this volume without taking breaks away from this book. I plowed through half of it and that was too much. I had to go to Colorado and drive back home to New Jersey with my family to get it out of my head. So I would suggest alternating these stories with lighter fare, or trips to Colorado if you can.
The second half was easier for me . . . I think maybe because Flannery doesn't seem to kill off all of her characters in the second half . . .
The single story "Revelation" was worth all of the time I spent on this book. My second favorite was . . . oops . . . Amazon won't let me print the title . . .
I got this book out of my interest in Southern history and culture. What I got from it was incredibly deep, affecting, surreal yet crudely realistic portrayals of people in all of their hypocritical, self deceptive, self destructive, self righteous, vulgar, and funny ways. I didn't know people could write like this . . . or this well.
Of all these stories, I think it's "The Displaced Person" that pleases me most. Its length is less than a novel but it has about it the moral, historical and spiritual proportions of a great epic. Its ironic rendering of human folly and ignorance comes across with patient objectivity and humor, and so free of contempt as to seem miraculous. It's a rare writer who can portray such rustic or insufferable characters so believably on the one hand; but on the other, free of the taint of hatred or even condescension.