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Three by Flannery O'Connor (Signet Classics)

1 rating: -1.0
A book by Flannery O'Connor

The quintessential Southern writer, O'Connor wrote fiercely comic, powerful fiction. This anthology includes the masterpiecesWise Blood,The Violent Bear it Away, andEverything that Rises Must Converge.

Tags: Books
Author: Flannery O'Connor
Publisher: Signet Classics
1 review about Three by Flannery O'Connor (Signet Classics)

Grim Amusement

  • Mar 22, 2008
Flannery O'Connor's characters suffer and suffer, but it's comedic because they die in the end. Her characters uniformly rage against God and organized religion, or else commit horrific crimes in His name, all of which speaks to her deep, abiding Catholic faith.

Am I the only person who doesn't understand this woman's appeal?

This is a collection of three of O'Connor's four fictional works: "Wise Blood" from 1952, "The Violent Bear It Away" from 1960, and the short-story collection "Everything That Rises Must Converge" from 1965, a year after a long and painful battle with lupus bore her away at 39. Only 1955's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" is left off, a good thing because "4 By Flannery O'Connor" may have been more than I could safely handle.

"Wise Blood" is the O'Connor novel people bring up most, a tale of a wandering misanthrope named Hazel Motes who, rebelling against the stern dictates of his preacher grandfather, decides he is going to found the Church Without Christ, urging people to shake off oppressive Christianity. His obsession with Jesus makes for a kind of reverse devotion.

"I seen you wouldn't never have no fun or let anybody else because you didn't want nothing but Jesus!" is the way one of Hazel's girlfriends puts it.

Hazel only gets worse as the story goes along, much the same way as the protagonist of O'Connor's other novel, Francis Marion Tarwater of "Violent". Brought up by a strange fundamentalist uncle who ups and dies, Francis shows up at the doorstep of an atheist relative and his mentally-retarded son. He is taken in and counseled he should put away his uncle's God-fearing attitudes, though this like every other tack in an O'Connor story only leads to disaster.

Of the nine short stories in this collection, only three don't conclude with some character being murdered or dying suddenly. The theme of blood is constant. "Blood don't lie" is the way a doctor puts it in "The Enduring Chill", and in other stories, this is borne out in the complexities and shackles of family relations. For someone dying of a blood disease, this may be the stuff of irony or despair.

O'Connor's stories are certainly unique in their construction, and she has a way with a phrase. It all comes together here just once, a story called "Revelation" where a waiting-room encounter makes a woman take stock of her life. As the soughing of crickets comes across like a heavenly choir, one gets a rare sense of what O'Connor meant by her famous quote, about grace being change and change being painful.

The rest of it was just painful. Are you one of those who get O'Connor? Good for you. If not, you aren't alone.

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