Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Books (7, and last)--Flannery O'Connor's Radical Reality

Flannery O'Connor's Radical Reality, edited by Jan Nordby Gretlund and Karl-Heiz Westarp, is definitely a book for those who just can't get enough of this author--such as myself. I readily admit that O'Connor is not for everybody, though partisan that I am, I believe she should be.

This is nice, wide-ranging collection of essays by a number of scholars familiar with her work. I particularly enjoyed "Flannery O'Connor's Challenge as Thomistic Maker," by Marion Montgomery, a Georgia professor who actually knew her. Without delving into the particulars of his essay, I do want to simply pass along a couple of O'Connor anecdotes, as well as a related quote, to-wit:

There is an anecdote concerning what we might take as her attempt to generous-spirited to an old naive friend. The friend had come home from Greenwich Village, way up there in New York City, all excited by what she had seen and heard and done. Thus enlightened, she was home for a visit and came out to Andalusia to share her adventures with Flannery, whom she supposed entrapped by the provincial South. Calling on her old acquaintance and friend out at the farm, the tow of them talked and rocked on the front porch, the friend recounting high adventure among poets and artists. The visitor at least fell silent for a spell, the two of them still rocking. The, looking out over the pines and pastures, peacocks and chickens pecking about the yard--perhaps even seeing the jackass O'Connor had bought for her mother as a Mother's Day present--she exclaimed, "Oh, Flannery! If only I could take you out of all this!" And Flannery rocked a minute before responding in her nasal voice, "Out of all what?"

There is another story, shared by a mutual friend and complementary of this challenging visitation upon Flannery by a friend--New York imported to central Georgia. this mutual friend arrived by bus from southern Georgia for a visit. She was let out at the dirt road leading up to Andalusia only to find Flannery meeting her half way down the road, hobbling on her crutches, to share an encounter of an act of country charity the day before. she could not wait to share it. A man, visiting Miss Regina, Flannery's mother, on farm business, was walking and talking with Mrs. O'Connor when he realized that Flannery was trailing along behind them on her crutches. The visitor felt obligated to include her, poor cripple that she was. He stopped, reached down at his feet, and caught up one of Flannery's chickens. The he threw it high up in the air, and the chicken, squawking and fluttering, managed to land safely a few yards away. Turning to Flannery like a considerate uncle, he said, " It don't take much to give a chicken a good time."

And then there is this on O'Connor and Allen Tate and their views on provincialism:

Provincialism, Tate "a state of mind in which regional men lose their origin in the past and its continuity into the present, and begin every day as if there had been no yesterday"....For both Tate and O'Connor, no solution is whole that does not embrace the material and legal order within a spiritual vision. Programs and rulings in the name of the common good are but temporary--temporal--solutions always in decay, requiring an acknowledgment of the spiritual dimension to any viable hope for the common good. Otherwise provincialism obtains. Such provincialism is to be seen, Tate says, in contrast to "the classical-Christian world, based upon regional consciousness, which held that honor, truth, imagination, human dignity, and limited acquisitiveness, could alone justify a social order, however rich and efficient it may be. We have become largely provincials," Tate adds, and so we "do not live anywhere," having committed ourselves "to seeing with, not through, the eye.


Kirk said...

Not to change the subject, but did you ever read Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom?

John said...

Yes I have, many years ago.

s-p said...

Great stories! Can you imagine sitting on Flannery's front porch in a rocking chair talking to her? Wow...

Theron said...

a couple years ago I found a couple mp3 recordings of Flannery online.

I grew up in South GA, so when listening it was extremely comforting because it sounded like listening to a younger version of my grandmother.

Sometimes though, Flannery can be too close for comfort for me. I recognize too many people.

John said...

Theron, I have seen links to those recordings, but have not yet listened to them for some reason. And I know what you mean about her characterizations hitting a little close to home at times. But if O'Connor's stories don't make one a little uncomfortable, then you have missed the point somehow.