Followers of this blog who have taken the trouble to wade through my whimsical though approximately accurate “About” page will have discovered that I am a great admirer of the short stories and novels of Flannery O’Connor. We are co-religionists (Egads, Catholics!) and I have for many years sensed in her work a kindred spirit that goes beyond this, yay, a spirit that extends its wide swath unto the swale and swamp marshes of style and humor, not to mention an appetite for impaling in fiction the morally reprehensible, mentally flaccid and feckless sorts who have screwed up their own lives wholesale and hence want to screw up everyone else’s life as well.
Apropos of all of the foregoing, I would like to draw attention to and commend for close reading some excerpts from O’Connor’s youthful journals that appeared in the Sept. 16, 2013 New Yorker under the title “My Dear God.” Written when she was twenty-one and a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1946, they show her struggling mightily with both faith and the writer’s craft. Her wit and humor come through loud and clear even as she wrestles with, in the rawest, most emotionally revealing and honest fashion, the major issues confronting the writer of faith at the outset of her career.
I would go so far as to say that these excerpts could be used as a critical “key” for understanding what she attempted in her fiction, and indeed what she actually accomplished and bequeathed to the rest of us, in her all too short time here.
The journal entries all begin with her addressing God, variously “My dear God” or “Dear God.” That ought to tell you something, eh?
As a teaser and foretaste of the delights in these excerpts, I will leave you with the following thought and give Flannery O’Connor herself the last word here:
No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons.
[Believe, you see, is a transitive verb. Therein lies the rub ;)]
- Flannery O’Connor: Reflections on prayer. (newyorker.com)
- UGA Press re-releasing “Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia,” other iconic books (onlineathens.com)
- National Grant Funds Flannery O’Connor Summer Institute (milledgeville.13wmaz.com)
- Flannery O’Connor “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (katelamianskaya.wordpress.com)