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Thursday, January 29, 2009

What I’m Reading Now: A Bit of Southern Lit.

Flannery O'Connor: The Complete Stories

It’s that time again to take a little break from the world of comics and dive into the world of literature, more specifically, Southern literature. Last semester, I took a course that was brief overview of American literature. In this class, I had the opportunity to read the works writers such as Thomas Paine, Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Booker T. Washington, Jack London, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, and even Ishmael Reed. Some of these names I am sure you are familiar with and perhaps some you are seeing for the first time. But the most profound, beautiful, and moving piece of literature was written by a young, female, Georgia born writer, Flannery O’Connor (also know to myself as Flo’con) and was entitled, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” This simple, 16-page short story showed me the power the words can truly have and how important and moving short stories are to the literary world. Not only did this story open up my eyes to O’Connor’s works put also to all of Southern literature such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Harper Lee. Southern literature is absolutely rich in heritage and offers great scenes and setting and a variety of complex characters for these short stories and novels. Upon reading O’Connor’s work, I decided to read the rest of her writings. A great publication of her work can be found at any local bookstore and is entitled Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories. The back cover solicit reads as follows:

"The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O’Connor’s monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two short story collections O’Connor put together in her short lifetime – Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O’Connor published her first story, “The Germanium,” in 1946 while she was working on her master’s degree at the University of Iowa. This book, which is arranged chronologically, shows that her last story, “Judgment Day,” sent to her publisher shortly before her death, is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of “The Germanium.” Taken together, these reveal an amazingly live, imaginative, and penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction writing this century. Also included is an introduction and memoir by O’Connor’s long-time editor, Robert Giroux. What we lost when she died is bitter. What we have is astonishing; the stories burn brighter than ever, and strike deeper."
- Walter Clemons, Newsweek

As seen above, O’Connor has the amazing ability to inspire emotions in response to her characters and subject matter and is a fantastic writer and artist. She died on August 3, 1964, at the age of 39, of complications from lupus at Baldwin County Hospital and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia, at Memory Hill Cemetery. And as the book explains, “When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers.”

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