Having a short life and therefore, an underdeveloped literary career means that there is not much Flannery O'Connor about and this seems a shame as she is a great writer especially of short stories but it is also true that she is very much a writer of her time.
Writing stories about people in the south of America from the 1950s means that Flannery's work is very evocative of that time and this permeates the text in its atmosphere, the vernacular, the cars but most notably with the use of the N word, which positively litters the text.
Bizarrely, it is not used in an inflammatory sense but as a way for the white people to describe those of a different colour, for the most part. There is no doubt that in certain stories, the divide between white European and African American is pronounced but there is no racial violence contained in these stories; tension maybe but there is that between white people too, of different stations and positions. However, it is a bit disconcerting in modern times to read a book which uses it so frequently and casually so this is definitely something to bear in mind when approaching her fiction.
The collection begins as it means to go on mostly, with dark humour. O'Connor's eponymous story tells of a family jaunt which goes horrifically wrong and sets the tone for the rest of the tales. Each story contains a small microcosm of American life from families to couples, preachers to workers, generals to bible sellers.
Whilst I generally enjoyed the whole collection, I thought that it got progressively better as I got deeper into the stories, culminating in A Circle in the Fire, Good Country People and The Displaced Person which are also, in my opinion, the most shocking.
Flannery O'Connor is a keen observer of human behaviour and the triggers that can cause us to act a certain way, usually to our detriment. She is also good at putting her characters into situations where their life is encroached upon, sometimes stealthily, sometimes with awareness that it is happening and often times without a clear way of how to deal with it. Their consciousness that things are not going their way and that their control is slipping away in the stories mentioned makes them particularly unsettling.
Dark, funny, quirky, O'Connor is definitely on a par with Roald Dahl.
I love to read and write reviews for everything I read. I also write, my short stories having received runner-up plaudits on Reedsy Prompts and Vocal. I have my own blog at scuffedgranny.com where I publish most of my writings as well as a podcast called Scuffed Granny Writes on Spotify.
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