Monday, December 5, 2016

The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
With grown people, a road led either to heaven or hell, but with children there were always stops along the way where their attention could be turned with a trifle ~ From A View of the Woods

This is the first time I’ve read this or any work by Flannery O’Connor.  It is a collection of short stories, which are decidedly Southern Gothic. 

My rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

This book satisfies #12, a volume of classic short stories, from The Back to the Classics Challenge2016.  It is not part of the 100 Greatest Novels Quest – cuz, ya know – it isn’t a novel.

I picked up this book years ago after I’d read a quotation somewhere by O’Connor that intrigued me. I don’t remember the quotation, and I didn’t get far into this book at the time – as it failed to intrigue me.  However, I seldom forsake a book forever, and when The 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge called for a collection of short stories, I knew it was time to pick it up again.

And I’m glad I did. Flannery O’Connor seems to have been an astute student of humanity in her short 39 years.

Her stories can you leave you a bit dissatisfied if you are looking for full conflict, resolution, and closure. Her endings are not like that; in fact they are often left quite open ended. Her stories are about humans and their abundant flaws.

I’ve never been entirely clear on the meaning of the term “dirty south” but I got the distinct feeling O’Connor was writing about the dirty south.

The main characters of most of the stories struggled with their place in the world, often disillusioned with society and flatly contemptuous of religion. They were often plagued by well-meaning Christian folk, who simply didn’t understand the protagonist’s existential crisis. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought O’Connor shared the protagonist’s contempt of religion, as the Christian characters were usually rather simple, while the main character was far more complex – and unhappy.

So, I’m a bit perplexed about her point. O’Connor asserted her stories were neither apologetic nor didactic. Perhaps they were simple observations – let the reader infer the meaning. In that regard, I liked them. They made me think, and they made me feel. Be warned – they feel sad.

The cover has peacock feathers. O’Connor kept a small flock of peafowl and called them The King of the Birds.

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