|FLANNERY O'CONNOR'S BEDROOM AND CRUTCHES|
This week's arts and culture piece begins:
Flannery O’Connor ordered her life to her vocation, and she found in suffering the key Christian mystery
The Easter season seems a fitting time to pay tribute to the American short story writer and novelist Flannery O’Connor.
O’Connor (1925-1964) was an only child who grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and whose father died of lupus. As a young woman she studied at the prestigious Iowa Workshop.
On the verge of a promising literary career, she contracted lupus herself and returned to the family dairy farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, to live out her remaining days with her mother, Regina.
A devout Catholic in the overwhelmingly evangelical Protestant South, O’Connor referred to herself as a “hillbilly Thomist” and often read a page or two from the “Summa Theologica” before going to bed. She never married.
Closely observing the family members, neighbors and farmhands with whom she came in contact every day, she wrote stories — about intellectual pride, the perils of secular humanism and the violence of grace — that even today have the power to shock.
In “Good Country People,” Hulga, a would-be nihilist home from college, is seduced by a traveling Bible salesman who steals her wooden leg.
In the novel “Wise Blood,” backwoods prophet Hazel Motes blinds himself with quicklime.
“Jesus thrown everything off balance,” notes The Misfit, the escaped convict in perhaps O’Connor’s best-known short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Then he shoots the whole family, including the grandmother.
In this culture where “everyone’s a writer” and reality show celebrities, porn stars and disgraced athletes dash off a “memoir” in a week or two, it’s worth reflecting on the qualities of a real writer.
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