Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1955, 252 pp

This is Flannery O'Connor's famous collection of stories about various characters and situations in the South. The characters run from flawed to evil, the situations from hard times to tragedy. Each story is extremely dark and hopeless with lightning flashes of wry humor.

You could say that human weakness is the theme, with both the attacker and the victim drawn to each other by that very weakness. O'Connor's compatriot in terms of setting and time period is Eudora Welty, but the point of view of each author, though dealing with similar subject matter, is almost diametrically opposed. Welty makes the quirks and weaknesses charming and understandable, while O'Connor's view is shadowed by doom.

I do see why O'Connor is so acclaimed. There is never a dull or boring moment in any of these stories. Somehow she lets you know that doom is coming, so you read eagerly, cringingly, almost guiltily, to find out what form that doom will take. It seems to me though that it is our own weakness that fuels the curiosity.

Released this year is a new biography, Flannery, A Life of Flannery O'Connor, by Brad Gooch. It has been called "the definitive biography" by Booklist, but got a snarly review from Joyce Carol Oates, who is surely a literary descendant of O'Connor. It sits on my shelf waiting for me to get through all of her own writing before learning what was behind it. I still have her two novels to go.

(A Good Man is Hard to Find is available in hardcover or paperback by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. The biography is only available in hardcover, again by special order.)

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