Flannery O’Connor

Journal: 048


I seem to be using the Covid-19 crisis for remedial US.Lit. First Willa Cather, now Flannery O’Connor, courtesy of another read-along, this time with Melanie from Grab the Lapels. (I’m not reading the biography pictured, but Melanie is). O’Connor, who lived a short life, from 1925 to 1964, in Georgia in the US South, wrote two novels and 32 short stories. Her style is said to be Southern Gothic, informed by Catholicism (Wiki). As I am forced to say increasingly often, I had never heard of her.

Melanie is planning to read The Complete Stories, a prizewinning anthology put together after O’Connor’s death and to put up reviews over four consecutive Tuesdays (Wednesdays in Australia) from May 12th. I have located some of the stories online (here) but I imagine more readable copies are obtainable at the usual sites.

I have already read one story, The Barber (so-so) but I love it that the Catholic O’Connor was the originator of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which was reversed to such great effect by Mae West. OK, I got lost in DuckDuckGo search there for a while. A Good Man etc dates back to at least a 1918 (I think) song by Eddie Green sung here by Bessie Smith.

As a non-reader of short stories I find I am reading three short story collections simultaneously, to get them over with maybe, Flannery O’Connor, Patrick White’s Cockatoos and an Australian women’s collection called The Babe is Wise. I guess at least I can get to the end of a story before I swap books. I struggle to read novels simultaneously because the stories get tangled in my head.

It has been fascinating following the different responses to Covid-19 amongst bloggers. All of us I think stopped reading/writing in shock when we realised that this was not just another SARS, dangerous but remote, but the real deal, our lives being shut down and the world economy with it. Most of us have fired up again, not just in Australia where the first wave has largely passed us by and we in the middle class have jobs and savings to tide us over, but around the world where it is much more likely that you know people who have been affected.

I am doubly or triply unaffected in that as a truck driver I am not required to stay home, so that I am both out and earning my usual income, and I routinely spend a week or two between jobs at home anyway, reading and writing. But still I find myself singularly unproductive. Today is Saturday. I got in from Darwin last Friday. There’re plenty of jobs on the Loadshift site. I should be on my way to Melbourne.

Of course I blame Anzac Day. Long weekends are fine if you’re loaded but a pain when you’re not, just one fewer day to get stuff done. (I’ve left You Tube running since I fired up Bessie Smith and we’ve progressed through Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood. Now that’s real music. Keep your Mozart, WG).

On the way down from Darwin the truck computer was reporting a fault which I managed to work around (the usual way. By switching the truck off and restarting). I had it looked at while I was waiting to unload Friday. No luck. Took it back Tues. “It must be electrical”, the mechanic said. Electrician, Weds. “It must be the computer”. Volvo squeezed me in Thurs night. They’d replace the whole system if you let them, but I held them down to replacing the Ad Blue pump. Seems to have worked. Meanwhile, another workshop had my back trailer for a service which devolved into new brakes and bearings. I got it back 5.00pm Friday. I have the hint of a load of scrap metal today but no-one’s answering the phone. Looks like Monday.

It’s ages since I had reviews written up in advance of a trip. I should have something for Tues, but Thurs/Fri? Don’t like your chances.

WA is one of the states that have expanded allowable gatherings to ten people. I’ve been down to Gee’s to hold the new baby, and to play with the two who were babies just yesterday, interrupted Lou giving them home schooling (not for Covid-19 but because the school has whooping cough. Life goes on!). Took Milly out to dinner. No, restaurants aren’t open yet. We got Indian take-away – happy to have us drop in with Uber gouging 35% for delivery – a fine Pinot Grigio, and sat on my balcony admiring the sunset over the river.

Where has all my reading/writing time gone? Compulsively reading newspapers and political newsletters mostly. Love Guy Rundle in Crikey. Miss Helen Razer. Where are you Helen? Totally enjoying the Palmer Report’s ongoing take-down of the mentally deficient criminal rapist murderer con artist in the White House. Stay Safe!






29 thoughts on “Flannery O’Connor

  1. I have never heard of Flannery O’Connor either and I lived in the U.S. for the first 40 years (almost) of my life. Interesting. Whooping cough??? That is sad. There should be none of that left in the world. Good you got the truck fixed and also were able to socialise a bit. I am well and truly over this isolated existence. Mr. Penguin and I have not shot each other yet. Luckily there is always a dog to walk.


  2. Why are you reading things just “to get them over with”? Yes, we all did this when we were at school and uni, but now we read for pleasure. So why are you doing it?


    • That is a really deep question Lisa. And I’m sure we all read for something more than ‘pleasure’. I’m not comfortable with the short story format so the decision to read them includes some “should”. Patrick White because he’s Patrick White (and generally rewards the effort it takes to read him). The Babe is Wise because I’m finding the individual stories very good, and the thing I dislike is that the end too soon. O’Connor because I said I would, because she tells me something about what Americans read, and of course because the stories might turn out to be interesting in themselves.

      And maybe some of the “should” is just that I’m a calvinist and don’t believe in reward without effort.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I love this answer Bill, particularly your Calvinist answer!

        I have always lovely short stories – from my primary school years. In high school I fell in love with Patrick White’s Voss, and then went on to read a short story collection, The burnt ones, which I loved too.


      • I’ve written the review of The Babe is WIse and I’ll put it up Tues probably. So I hope you read it. Hopefully it will inspire you to read your copy without spoiling your reading experience. I can’t tell. I actually enjoy reading reviews before I read a book, and horrors! sometimes read other people’s reviews before making a start on my own.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What? Never heard of Flannery O’Connor? Where have you been? Though I have to say I have only read a couple of short stories which I liked immensely, but I seen to have known about her for I don’t know how long as she’s one of those famous names in short stories.

    As for “Keep your Mozart, WG”, I’ll have you know that I was listening to some John Lee Hooker this very morning. I’ll also have you know that I’ve just finished watching the whole Ken Burns Country Music series that SBS screened over March-April. No music snobbery here – I have eclectic tastes and will go from Arvo Pärt to Johnny Cash, from Kathleen Battle singing arias to the Beatles in a flash.

    The Babe is Wise? Is that short stories? Or Excerpts? I have that book on my TBR – bought it on a remainder table probably 20 years ago but still haven’t read it. I can visualise it though.

    We have been getting takeaway too rather than delivery, uber or otherwise. It’s nice speaking to these businesses who are working hard to keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have music snobberies all over the place – including refusing to listen to entertainers who rebrand themselves with knighthoods (yes you, Paul McCartney).

    I’ll post a review of The Babe is Wise next week I hope, and you will promptly seek out your copy and read it. I would like to have kept it for Gen 4 Week but that is two years away.

    As for writers I’ve never heard of, their number is legion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so pleased that you’ll be joining me for the read along. I’m keeping on track and just doing one per day. Flannery O’Conner was wicked smart and had a disability for almost her whole adult life (lupus), which is what cut things short. She was able to sell most of her stories to magazines or journals and get paid (imagine that today), and wrote decidedly from a southern perspective (very much Georgia). While was was one of the most devout Catholics I’ve read about, her characters sometimes seem more like puritans to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] On May 1st, as scheduled, I started my book of Flannery O’Connor short stories. So far I’ve read “The Geranium” and “The Barber,” and I’ll read “Wildcat” tonight. After I finish the story, I journal my thoughts on it so I’m taking a moment to reflect and engage. If you hurry through O’Connor, sometimes the surface view seems wonky. Thank you to everyone who let me know they’re following along, and to Bill for this lovely post. […]


  7. I’ve heard of but not read F O’C.

    And the 10 people thing, is it groups of any 10 or a nominated 10 and you all have to nominate each other (like they have discussed here but how on earth would it work?)

    No one close to me has died of Covid-19 yet, however parents of two friends have, and two friends have had it badly at home and one went into hospital and came out again. A bit close for comfort even then.


    • Basically any 10 who happen to turn up, I guess the eleventh gets turned away. Or maybe they all turn and stare at the unpopular kid and he slinks off. A bit of a problem for my daughter because their starting position is 2 parents, 6 kids and an uncle, so they can only have one visitor at a time. In Darwin the rule meant 10 people sitting around drinking and eating take-away and moaning they couldn’t be down the pub with 990 others (and lots of shaking hands with everyone to prove you weren’t a Covid-19 wuss).

      I’m sorry it’s much closer to home over there.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m finally back to blog hopping and reading both your blog and Melanie’s has pointed out that I forgot about the Flannery O’Connor readalong. Hm. I will need to find some way to participate.

    I really like to read short stories, but I have to be in the right mood. It can be difficult, sometimes, to find that mood! How did you end up with three short story collections at once?! I find one is enough for me. Perhaps if they were all a similar genre?


    • I started reading the second collection to ameliorate the effects of the first then Melanie reminded me I was meant to be reading a third. And they are all as different as can be, which is probably a good thing. I’m glad you’re back blogging and commenting, you sound like you have (understandably!) been in shock. I think in some ways the whole of the US has experienced another Katrina. Which is what we were expecting here but it just got a bit windy and anyway we had all hunkered down in shelters. I’m working right now – 4 or 5 15 hour days – but I appreciate that you have commented and I’ll respond as quickly as I can

      Liked by 1 person

      • Shock is actually a really good way to describe my feeling (I did some research to better understand it) and the way I’ve been interacting with the world. America has done an absolute shit job taking care of each other, government or public. I’m lucky I live in a small town that is doing a good job trying to care for each other.

        Hey, your job definitely comes before the blog! I only recently responded to comments from mid-April, so you’re fine. Take your time — and be safe on the roads!


  9. I enjoyed reading about how different your experience has been with work/closures/family/schools/”normal” lately. I’m feeling fortunate to be in Canada but increasingly anxious about the situation in the United States for they say that when America sneezes Canada catches a cold and it used to be a metaphor for the economic relationship but, now…

    Flannery was on my list for 2020 projects too, because I’d had a copy of her collected letters on my shelves for more than 20 years, and it was time to either read or pass it along. Turns out she was much more interesting than I’d expected, and I did read a few stories and some lit crit along the way (I was planning four posts on BIP about her, but have only written 3, because my last set of volumes, requested via the public library, remain in transit, expected to arrive some weeks hence). Her devotion to her craft really intrigues me. I think that sense of “they end too soon” was intentional, that she wanted readers to engage and be troubled and respond.


    • From Melanie’s commentary it seems quite clear that FO’C was very thoughtful about what she wrote and she seems to have intended the short stories to reflect off each other, to be read as collections. I think she even uses the word ‘novel’ and I can think of a couple of other novels which are often mis-read as short story collections.

      What sort of border closures do you have to protect yourself from the monster down south? I have to sign a declaration each time I enter NT and WA and there were quite draconian laws about ‘unnecessary’ travelling in the other states which I guess applied doubly to interstate visitors, but no border checkpoints that I saw last week travelling from WA to SA to NSW to Vic and return. I say ‘were’, travel restrictions are being eased but not yet dropped.


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