Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


The Christ Haunted South

I have recently begun working through the works of Flannery O’Connor. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I have only now made her acquaintance, properly (I did once read “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” in one of my second-hand literature anthologies) . After reading a couple online articles regarding her, I drove up to the county library and checked out both O’Connor volumes- The Violent Bear It Away and The Complete Stories; I bought Wise Blood yesterday at a bookstore.

The Violent Bear It Away was quite a book. I am still digesting it. However, I must say that I was rather distressed- if that’s the word- when I read through the reviews of this book on Amazon. In my humble estimation, the vast number of readers completely missed the point of the story. The great-uncle prophet is the “good-guy;” O’Connor herself said that she was “one hundred percent” for him. The schoolteacher personifies the crippling impotency of modernism- or, more universally, rejection of Christ. It is not “fundamentalism” of the Christian sort that drives the destructive madness of the story; it is the rejection of the “bloody, stinking shadow” of Jesus.

Of the short stories I have read through, I found three particularly striking- “Parker’s Back,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” and “Greenleaf” (the last is now quoted on the left-hand column of this blog). O’Connor had the ability to bring the great spectrum of colours and humanity that is the South and meld them to universals. She had an eye for the Jesus Who so poignantly and consistently haunts this land- in our darkness and decay as much as our churches and high-points. The Jesus of O'Connor's work is there in the midst of ruin and rottenness, pursuing the least-likely, the ones who would rather escape Him. He is in the midst of grotesque, often disturbing events, in the midst of human depravity and lunacy. He is here, flitting from tree to tree like He does in Hazel Mote's mind.

And I might add, as a Southerner, that O’Connor’s situations are often not all that far-fetched, but rather very often ring true. Folks do things down here that they don’t do elsewhere, I think.

I hope to read through her entire canon in the next week or two- which isn’t a particularly difficult task, as it’s rather small- she died at age thirty-nine, if I recall correctly. Hopefully by then I will manage to clobber up some worthy "interpretation" and post it on here.


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