The Book Nook Remembers Flannery O’Connor (8/11)

Welcome to the Book Nook! The weekly thread for all book nerds on The Avocado.
This is the place to talk about books you’re currently reading, discuss genres, ask for recommendations, and post serious literary criticism. 

Last week was the 57th anniversary of (Mary) Flannery O’Connor’s death, as she passed away on August 3rd, 1964, at age 39. I wanted to use this week’s Book Nook as a remembrance of sorts, as she’s one of my favorite authors.

Her short biography should be familiar. She lived in Georgia all her life, was deeply Catholic, and contracted lupus at age 27 (after her father had contracted the same disease prior to that) which caused her untimely death. All of this seemed to have informed her work, which was often deeply sardonic, spiritual, and often featured people with disabilities (as she herself began to suffer more and more under lupus) in a manner that could be described as “grotesque”, similar to many other works written in the Southern Gothic genre. 

However, she opposed the “grotesque” moniker that critics applied to her work, stating that “[A]nything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”

One could say this applies to her views on people of color as well, which is exactly as problematic as one would expect those of a Southern author from that time to be. I’m aware of these elements and it makes me feel uncomfortable. However, you’d be absolutely right to feel disgusted about it, and not wanting to read them.

While her short stories (available in a single collection) are considered by many to be her best works, I have had a special fondness of Wise Blood ever since I was assigned that novel in university. It was unlike anything I’d read before. While she may have disliked the “grotesque” moniker, I feel that perfectly describes this novel. The world of this book, starting with Hazel Motes, the young army veteran who decides to set up “The Church Without Jesus” as a (possible?) way to deal with his PTSD, starts off as absurd, and the story just gets increasingly more bizarre from that. Yet it remains fully captivating. To me, anyway.

So what are your thoughts on her and her works? 

I too would like this thread to continue to be a NO GIF/YouTube/social media embed zone as much as possible. An occasional exception would be fine with me, but let us use our words as often as possible.