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Flannery O'Connor : Collected Works : Wise Blood / A Good Man Is Hard to Find / The Violent Bear It Away / Everything that Rises Must Converge / Essays & Letters (Library of America) Hardcover – September 1, 1988
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My foray into the works of Flannery O'Connor, a southern, gothic author of darkly humorous novels and short stories came via a recommendation in Harold Bloom's, "What to Read and Why." As it turned ot, I had read one of her short stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," in a collection somewhere and had been surprised and shocked, by the turn of events and ending of the story, so much so, that I remembered it instantly, even though it has to have been thirty years since I read it. I enjoyed everything, short stories, novellas, and even her letters. She writes about southern Christ-haunted people, most backward, all damned, but many redeemed. Bloom says that according to her, we are all damned but one should put that aside and simply enjoy her beautiful, grotesque, and wonderful comedic stories. Her protagonist is often a woman, forced to take on a role and duties she didn't sign up for but resignedly and with no illusions playing and discharging both out of a sense of morality or necessity; those women are usually the most superior beings in her stories.
Many of her insights stick with me months afterwards. For example, O'Connor says in one of her letters, "...Hazel's integrity lies in his not being able to do so. Does one's integrity ever lie in what he is not able to do? I think that usually it does, for free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply. It is a mystery and one which a novel, even a comic novel, can only be asked to deepen." That brought tears to my eyes -- perhaps because it is so beautifully put.
The collection itself gets, at best, a two. It is very poorly organized, as others have mentioned. Rather than a table of contents listing every story, the main table of contents lists only "major" works-that is, the novels (Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away) and the collections (A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge). To find a particular story, one must either know what collection it appears in or must check separate tables of contents within the book. I'm probably nitpicking, but it can be frustrating, especially for someone new to O'Connor. The included essays are O'Connors most well-known and provide important and interesting insights into her writing and themes. Many of the letters are intriguing, but many others consist of a few lines and are not extremely useful (there's a two-line letter to Walker Percy, congratulating him on an award, which tells us virtually nothing at all; include it in a book of O'Connor's letters but not in a sampling of her best and most important). Beyond that, the letters are very poorly indexed.Read more ›
I often find it difficult to find a complete works which is really a complete works. This edition is full of her work, essays, lectures and letters. If you are someone who appreciates her work, this is indeed a gift. Pawing through a book isn't the most difficult thing to do so if you are considering this edition, please do not be put off by that.
If you are not a fan of Flannery O'Connor, then you are not a fan. I learned of her work in college and her work is disturbing and that is the point. Underneath the disturbing are characters who learn all too late of their bigotry, hatefulness and the other themes she writes about. That style and content is what distinguishes her and makes her worthy of study as one of the best southern writers.
I hope this review helps anyone who considers buying this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was used by a student with a highlighter. Because of this, I would say it was in poor condition.Published 15 days ago by Boston Bob
This book is a keeper, one that I will definitely be reading over & over. Her writing is quite unusual & often has interesting twists. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
One of my favorite Southern writers. This is a wonderful collection.Published 5 months ago by Annonymous
One of the most underrated and BEST authors I've read. Outstanding work by an unassuming lady who was a genius.Published 10 months ago by Idealist101
It is a great collection of an excellent author's work. Her essays and letters are also included, which can add some additionali insight if you are so inclined. Read morePublished 11 months ago by JJSR