Archives For Flannery O’Connor


Jonathan Rogers - Terrible Speed of MercyFinding Redemption

A Review of

The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor

Jonathan Rogers

Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Mary Bowling


It would seem that a biography about as spiritual a person as Flannery O’Connor must necessarily be a spiritual one. However, to the casual reader of O’Connor’s works, the circumstances of her life and spirituality are far from expected. How the gritty, filthy, mulish characters could issue forth from the frail, high-bred and deeply Catholic O’Connor is a question that adds a deeper level of interest to stories that already tend to hit the reader sideways.


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I’m intrigued by this novel, which will be out next week in paperback, perhaps you will be too?
If anyone has read it (the hardback came out last year) use the comments to let us know what you thought…

A Good, Hard Look: A Novel of Flannery O’Connor.

Ann Napolitano.

Paperback: Penguin Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

On a similar note…
Have you heard the rare recordings of Flannery O’Connor reading from her work?

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Flannery O'Connor - Listen to Rare Recordings!I know many of our readers here are big fans of Flannery O’Connor…

Thus, it is with great delight that I share here these rare recordings of her reading her work!

“A Good Man is Hard to Find”
“In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ventured away from her secluded family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, to give a reading at Vanderbilt University. She read one of her most famous and unsettling stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, accessible below, is one of two known recordings of the author reading that story.

Essay: “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction”
[ Read the text of this essay here… ]

“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.”


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Far Beyond the House and Chicken Yard

A Review of
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor.
by Brad Gooch.

By Chris Smith.


Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor.
Brad Gooch.

Hardcover: Little, Brown and Co., 2009.
Buy now from:
[ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]


A recent viral internet post has declared Flannery O’Connor among its list of “Stuff Christian Hipsters Like.”  While I can understand why such Christian Hipsters would be attracted to her dark, grotesque stories of sin and redemption, I am more convinced than ever – after reading Flannery, Brad Gooch’s authoritative new biography – that there is little in Flannery herself that such trendy folks would find “hip.”  A sheltered, southern woman from an aristocratic family, with “medieval” sensibilities and a cultural racism (334) befitting her situation in mid-twentieth century Georgia, she hardly fits the bill.  Gooch, however, spins an engaging narrative that is sure to draw in all its readers –   hipsters or not.

            The product of Gooch’s lifelong “infatuation” with Ms. O’Connor’s work and five years of research and writing, Flannery contradicts O’Connor’s opinion that a compelling biography of her life would never be written “because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.”  Gooch’s framework is the standard story of O’Connor’s life, developed largely from her autobiography-in-letters, The Habit of Being. Continue Reading…


The Other Journal interviews Vinoth Ramachandra

The Other Journal (TOJ): Dr. Ramachandra, it is an honor to talk with you about your recent book Subverting Global Myths and about how your work might help us understand faithfulness in the current biopolitical landscape.


I want to start off with a basic question: Given your travels across the world and your experiences in both cultures of the West and the developing world, or majority world, would you please talk a bit about the myopia that you feel U.S. Christians suffer as it relates to the myths you discuss in your book? In other words, what myths or “collective deceptions” do you find particularly salient within the subculture of evangelical and mainline Protestant U.S. Christianity?


Vinoth Ramachandra (VR): The myths that I explore do not have to do primarily with Christian churches; they deal with what one reviewer called “liberal pieties.” However, many Christians, of all theological persuasions, do tend to share in the predominant myths of their societies. I know that U.S. Christianity, even in its evangelical expressions, is extremely diverse, so I am wary of making facile generalizations (as in the liberal media).


Myths often contain some grains of truth, but these truths are greatly exaggerated and countertruths are suppressed. For instance, think of the way that many American Christians have been brought up to think of the United States of America’s wealth as having been founded on the Protestant work ethic and free trade. Many American Christians are not only brought up on one-sided readings of their own history but are largely ignorant of the histories of other peoples. This was reflected in the sheer incomprehension that attended the 9/11 atrocities, and it is reflected today in the sudden disillusionment with the global financial system. Anyone who has followed U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years or looked at the way global financial institutions operate from the perspective of the global poor would not have been surprised by recent events.

Read the full interview:


Vinoth Ramachandra.
Hardcover: IVP BOOKS, 2008
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $18 ] [ Amazon ]

Book Forum reviews a new Biography of Flannery O’Connor

Even then, it was obvious she was a genius,” said Miss Katherine Scott, Flannery O’Connor’s freshman-composition teacher, speaking to a reporter many years later about her most famous student—“warped, but a genius all the same.” The teacher no doubt focused on the warped part when the seventeen-year-old Catholic girl with the spectacles and the searing wit took her writing class at Milledgeville’s Georgia State College for Women in the summer of 1942; and it was the warped part she noticed some ten years later, when she read O’Connor’s first book, Wise Blood, and flung it across the room. “I thought to myself that character who dies in the last chapter could have done the world a great favor by dying in the first chapter instead,” she told the same reporter.

This was the sort of understanding and encouragement that surrounded Mary Flannery O’Connor from her earliest years in Savannah to her death at the age of thirty-nine in the Milledgeville area. But we should not be entirely sorry about that. Familial and social disapproval evidently spurred this writer on, enabling her to form a pearl around each painful speck of grit. That O’Connor’s pearls are among the most luminous and valuable we have in all of American literature does not detract in any way from their strangeness and hardness. Indeed, their value lies precisely in that hardness, that strangeness. However many times you read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “The Artificial Nigger,” and “Good Country People,” you will not be able to figure out the source of their enormous power; in fact, they will become increasingly mysterious to you as the years go by.

O’Connor’s fictional world is a severe, hilarious, violent place. People behave with senseless intolerance—not just racial intolerance, which we might expect of the South in the middle of the twentieth century, but also a deep-seated prejudice against anything or anyone from elsewhere, and particularly from Europe, the source of “unreformed” religion, gibberishlike speech, and other undesirable forms of behavior.

Read the full Review:

Brad Gooch.

Hardcover: Little, Brown and Company, Feb. 2009.
Pre-order now: [ Amazon ]

A Review of So Damn Much Money:
The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government

Before the next chapter of American political history unfolds further, it is worth thinking back a little on the one that is coming to a close.  An unusually good elucidation of some crucial developments of the past thirty years appears this month as So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government, by Robert G. Kaiser.


Ostensibly, the book tells the story of a highly successful but little-known entrepreneur named Gerald S.J. Cassidy — the man who, for all practical purposes, in 1975 invented a new kind of business, Congressional “earmarking,” and turned it into a vast – and troubling – new industry.


More broadly,  So Damn Much Money relates how money got the upper hand in politics, becoming the basis of  “the one big arrangement that came to define modern Washington: the mutually dependent relationship that evolved in the years after 1975 between members of Congress and the ever-growing tribe of Washington lobbyists.”

Read the full review:

So Damn Much Money.
Robert G. Kaiser.

Hardcover: Knopf, Jan. 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]


Scot McKnight reviews
Rob Bell’s Jesus Wants to Save Christians


“The most important thing that will come of Rob Bell’s newest book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, is that Christians will be given an approach to reading the Bible that both makes sense of the Bible and makes sense of the world in which the earliest Christians lived. I’ll sum it up with five “E”s. But I will stake a claim on this: this is Rob Bell’s best book to date.

If you’ve read any of Rob’s books or heard him speak, what do you think are his most importance insights and contributions?

 First, Rob suggests the “first” book in the Bible — and here he is not talking about the first book in pages — is Exodus and the big idea of that book, the “Exodus,” is the Bible’s own presentation of what God is up to in this world: hearing the cry of the oppressed and liberating them through an “exodus.” He traces this theme through the whole Bible, and of course he finds important echoes in the opening of each Gospel: the way made straight for the Lord. This image from Isa 40 is the new exodus theme of Isaiah.

 Second, those who are liberated, because they are fallen sinners, turn their situation into power and oppression and become once again like Egypt (another “e”). Egypt stands for bricks and power and money and oppression and turning away from God. Rob, swiping a generative idea of Walter Brueggemann’s (The Prophetic Imagination), sees the return to Egypt or the rise of Egypt in Israel in Solomon’s aggrandizing of power and money and military might. So, Egypt dwells in each of us and it is the prospect that fidelity alone can avoid.     … “


Read the full review:

Rob Bell.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians.

Hardcover. Zondervan. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Amazon ]

The Internet Review of Books reviews
John Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?.

” … Caputo admits, “We cannot know what Jesus would do in such an entirely different world as ours,” but he does propose that “he would deconstruct a very great deal of what people do in the name of Jesus, starting with the people who wield this question like a hammer to beat their enemies. My hypothesis is that the first thing that Jesus would deconstruct is WWJD itself, the whole ‘industry,’ the whole commercial operation of spiritual and very real money-making Christian capitalists.”


We are “haunted,” Caputo says, “by the unnerving prospect that one day Jesus will drop by, unannounced.” And yet he does drop by, is always arriving, or in deconstructionist terms, “always already arriving”:

From time to time the figure of Jesus, or fragments of his figure, appear here or there in individual lives, showing up sometimes in people who burn with a prophetic passion, sometimes in people of inordinate compassion and forgiveness. When this happens, we are likely to mistake such people as mad or weak, which in a sense they are—mad with the folly of the cross, weak with the weakness of God.”

Read the full review:

What Would Jesus De-Construct?
John Caputo
Paperback. Baker Academic. 2007.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $16] [ Amazon ]

The Clarion Review overviews

the fiction and “Christian Humanism”
of Flannery O’Connor.

“… O’Connor’s iconographic fiction was drawn out by the challenges to Christian orthodoxy that she felt compelled to answer. And “Parker’s Back” in particular helps us to understand where and on what grounds she parts company with the fundamentalist religion of the South—a religion that on various occasions O’Connor said she otherwise stood beside as a Roman Catholic in opposition to the secular mind. Ironically, modern fundamentalism doesn’t take the Incarnation seriously enough. It limits the limitless God to the written word and denies his presence in the physical creation. Sarah Ruth completely fails to detect God’s presence in the drama that unfolds around her. She is unable to see the image of God in her husband and does not comprehend his participation in the suffering of Christ and redemptive victory on the cross. Could this be because she is a Christian gnostic? O’Connor leaves Sarah Ruth no better off in relation to God and humanity than the secular people she abhors.

On another occasion, Flannery O’Connor penned these words about her art which crystallize in her characteristically homely way her remarkable incarnational and humanistic vision of life. ‘Fiction,’ she said, ‘is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.’ Now that is a lesson not limited to writing but applicable to the whole of living.”


Read the full review:

The Complete Stories of
Flannery O’Connor

Paperback. Noonday Press. 1971.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ] [ Amazon ]