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Chastened

Lorna Tracy, 3 September 1981

The Habit of Being: Letters by Flannery O’Connor 
edited by Sally Fitzgerald.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 639 pp., £8.25, January 1979, 0 571 12017 2
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The violent bear it away 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Faber, 226 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 571 12017 2
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A good man is hard to find 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Women’s Press, 251 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7043 2832 1
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... As many letters in The Habit of Being show, Flannery O’Connor was plagued long before her death with Deep Readers from little colleges offering outlandish ‘interpitations’ of her fiction and to some extent her life. If the tendency of British academics has been to demand that short stories must be ‘short Tories’, successful or not according to how strictly they are plotted to deliver a short sharp shock – an early, violent and nastily surprising end – the corresponding vice among their American counterparts has been to require that every short story be a fruitcake of Freudian symbols ...

I even misspell intellectual

Rupert Thomson: Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor, 2 April 2020

The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon 
edited by Christine Flanagan.
Georgia, 272 pp., £31.95, October 2018, 978 0 8203 5408 8
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... According​ to one of her cousins, Mary Flannery O’Connor was ‘a very peculiar child’. When she was six, she drew countless pictures of chickens. To discourage classmates from sharing her lunch, she would sometimes take castor oil sandwiches to school. Her own recollection of herself is characteristically acerbic: ‘a pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex ...

Not in My House

Mark Ford: Flannery O’Connor, 23 July 2009

FlanneryA Life of Flannery O’Connor 
by Brad Gooch.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 316 00066 6
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... The protagonist of ‘The Enduring Chill’, a short story Flannery O’Connor began in the autumn of 1957, is a 25-year-old would-be writer called Asbury Fox, who has been forced to return from Manhattan to the family farm in rural Georgia on account of a mysterious illness from which he believes he is dying ...

You are the we of me

Joyce Carol Oates: The Autobiography of Carson McCullers, 2 September 1999

Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers 
edited by Carlos Dews.
Wisconsin, 256 pp., £19.95, September 1999, 0 299 16440 3
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... and early Fifties, such disparate, talented young writers as Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Flannery O’Connor were perceived as kindred; there was a highly publicised vogue of American Southern Gothic writing, abetted by photographs of the very camp Truman Capote reclining on a chaise-longue like a delicious dream of Oscar Wilde’s, and by lurid ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... writers of a later time such as McCarthy or Didion. I am reminded especially of the letters of Flannery O’Connor, who was a friend of the Lowells in the Fifties. Both women have a fierce, intelligent, disciplined, Southern Catholic distaste for sentimentality, lies, Northern liberalism and decadence. ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Clarence Brown, 21 March 1996

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov.
Knopf, 659 pp., $35, October 1995, 0 394 58615 8
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... artists would seem to favour a breathing period that is either long or short. Chekhov, Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver were short-story writers. Dostoevsky, Faulkner and (horrified as he would be to find himself with this lot) Vladimir Nabokov were novelists. If your destiny lies in one form, the other is seldom hospitable. ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... in Oxford out of term.One black mark against Larkin is that he no more cares for the work of Flannery O’Connor than Amis did: ‘The day didn’t get off to a very good start by my reading some stories by “Flannery O’Connor” in the bath … horribly depressing American South things.’ This is October ...

Very Tight Schedule

Theo Tait, 1 June 2000

Driving the Heart 
by Jason Brown.
Cape, 224 pp., £10, January 2000, 0 224 06053 8
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... tinged with the grotesque, that owes something to Anderson’s successors – early Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner. In the 1980s, short fiction established itself as a form appropriate to their subject matter: broken homes, failed marriages, second wives, second chances, missed opportunities and short-term jobs. It exploited the lack of a ...

My Friend Sam

Jane Miller, 16 August 1990

The rock cried out 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 303 pp., £5.99, June 1990, 1 85381 140 8
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Can’t quit you, baby 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 256 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 1 85381 149 1
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... self-evidently annulled? If Ellen Douglas is likely to be read as of roughly the generation of Flannery O’Connor and as a Mississippian who might be compared with the rather older Eudora Welty, her writing expresses a proper wariness of that tradition’s tripwires as well as a preoccupation with its most haunting themes. For there is always the ...

Where a man can be a man

Margaret Anne Doody, 16 December 1993

All the Pretty Horses 
by Cormac McCarthy.
Picador, 302 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 330 33169 8
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... of order. McCarthy has been considered one of the Southern Gothic writers, along with Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor; he shared O’Connor’s religion, having been bred a Roman Catholic. His latest novel marks a departure; the wild country is now the Texas-Mexico border; Eastern Tennessee, with its new ski resorts ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Other Atticus Finch, 29 July 2015

... lifelike Southern lawyer of the period, a divided figure and a dark gothic construction out of Flannery O’Connor. We can now see him as he was before rewriting turned him holy, before the magic happened, and it’s a shock because the author’s later conception of his purity seems suddenly manufactured and false. Atticus is now less convincing as a ...

In Praise of Pritchett

Martin Amis, 22 May 1980

On the Edge of the Cliff 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 179 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 7011 2438 5
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The Tale Bearers: Essays on English, American and Other Writers 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 223 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 7011 2435 0
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... thickly neighboured: the story exists in the minds of all who were there,’ or when he praises Flannery O’Connor’s fidelity to ‘the inner riot that may possess the lonely man or woman at some unwary moment in the hours of their day’. Now this is more like it, you can hear Pritchett saying to himself. The distinction he is secretly making ...

Static

Lorna Scott Fox, 22 September 1994

The Still Moment 
by Paul Binding.
Virago, 290 pp., £20, May 1994, 1 85381 441 5
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... Joe to the march of Margaret Mitchell’s carpet-baggers, from Faulkner’s tentacular Snopeses to Flannery O’Connor’s blackhearted preachers. Welty documents the fall (her loss) in a very Protestant way, as something immutable. Degradation and its agents – often heralds of the New South – are to be portrayed, pitied, parsimoniously redeemed, but ...

Fellow Freaks

Sam Thompson: Wells Tower, 9 July 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned 
by Wells Tower.
Granta, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2009, 978 1 84708 048 6
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... Freaks and poor people, engaged always in some violent, destructive action,’ was how Flannery O’Connor once described the subjects of her fiction. She claimed that her vision of an American South full of distorted bodies and maimed souls was not grotesque but realistic. ‘The poor love formality, I believe, even better than the wealthy,’ she wrote, ‘but their manners and forms are always being interrupted by necessity ...

‘Porter!’

Penelope Gilliatt, 19 May 1983

The Life of Katherine Anne Porter 
by Joan Givner.
Cape, 572 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 224 02093 5
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... is often now seen as the archetypal Southern writer. She seems to have more in common with Flannery O’Connor, if people are to be clamped in boxes. She was never part of any school. In her short stories, which are the best of her work, she fires off none of the quick-thud ironic or melodramatic shots and uses none of the swift falls into a ...

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