Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Regarding A Good Man is Hard to Find

Grace to the Catholic way of thinking, can and does use as its medium the imperfect, purely human, and even hypocritical. Cutting yourself off from Grace is a very decided matter, requiring a real choice, act of will, and affecting the very ground of the soul. The Misfit is touched by the Grace that comes through the old lady when she recognizes him as her child, as she has been touched by the Grace that comes through him in his particular suffering. His shooting her is a recoil, a horror at her humanness, but after he has done it and cleaned his glasses, the Grace has worked in him and he pronounces his judgment: she would have been a good woman if he had been there every moment of her life. True enough. In the Protestant view, I think Grace and nature don’t have much to do with each other. The old lady, because of her hypocrisy and humanness and banality couldn’t be a medium for Grace. In the sense that I see things the other way, I’m a Catholic writer. [Found here.]

from "The Church & the Fiction Writer"

What the Catholic fiction writer must realize is that those who question [the faith] are not insane at all, they are not utterly foolish and irrelevant, they are for the most part acting according to their lights. What he must get over is that they don't have the complete light.

Friday, October 09, 2009

From 2/4/1961 Letter....

I measure God by everything I am not.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Letter from FOC:

The business of the broken sleep is interesting, but the business of sleep generally is interesting. I once did without it almost all the time for several weeks. I had high fever and was taking cortisone in big doses, which prevents your sleeping. I was starving to go to sleep. Since then I have come to think of sleep as metaphorically connected with the mother of God. Hopkins said she was the air we breathe, but I have come to realize her most in the gift of going to sleep. Life without her would be equivalent to me to life without sleep, and as she contained Christ for a time, she seems to contain our life in sleep for a time so that we are able to wake up in peace.    [Found here.]

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

From The Habit of Being...

I am reading the [Simone] Weil books now, having finished the Letters to a Priest and I am very much obliged to you and will keep these books until you want them. I am struck by the coincidence (?) of title of Waiting for God, and Waiting for Godot—have you read that play, by an Irishman named Beckett? The life of this remarkable woman still intrigues me while much of what she writes, naturally, is ridiculous to me. Her life is almost a perfect blending of the Comic and the Terrible, which two things may be opposite sides of the same coin. In my own experience, everything funny I have written is more terrible than it is funny, or only funny because it is terrible, or only terrible because it is funny. Well Simone Weil’s life is the most comical life I have ever read about and the most truly tragic and terrible. If I were to live long enough and develop as an artist to the proper extent, I would like to write a comic novel about a woman—and what is more comic and terrible than the angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch with ground teeth?... [24 September 55 to “A.”]

By saying Simone Weil’s life was both comic and terrible, I am not trying to reduce it, but mean to be paying her the highest tribute I can, short of calling her a saint, which I don’t believe she was. Possibly I have a higher opinion of the comic and terrible than you do. To my way of thinking it includes her great courage and to call her anything less would be to see her as merely ordinary. She was certainly not ordinary. Of course, I can only say, as you point out, this is what I see, not this is what she is—which only God knows. But I didn’t mean that my heroine would be a hypothetical Miss Weil. My heroine already is, and is Hulga. Miss Weil’s existence only parallels what I have in mind, and it strikes me especially hard because I had it in mind before I knew as much as I do now about Simone Weil. …You have to be able to dominate the existence that you characterize. That is why I write about people who are more or less primitive. I couldn’t dominate a Miss Weil because she is more intelligent and better than I am but I can project a Hulga. [30 September 55 to “A.”]
Found here and here.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another View of Recent Biography

Ralph C. Wood, author of "Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-haunted South" has a more critical view of the recent Gooch biography:

Gooch lays O’Connor’s genuine distinctiveness to the side, and thus fails to bring her life into the sharp focus it demands. His biography has no overarching theme, no compelling trajectory, no revealing figure in the carpet. He seems to believe that O’Connor was a rara avis, but his main evidence is that, as a child, she trained a chicken to walk backward and that, as an adult, she raised peafowl and other exotic birds. The patronizing intimacy of Gooch’s title turns out, moreover, to be a distancing device. [Ouch, see this blog's title.] Instead of probing the complex depths of “Flannery,” Gooch has written a jauntily superficial book....


It has become virtually standard procedure, among interpreters of Gooch’s kind, to say that O’Connor’s life and work must not be confined or reduced to her Catholicism, that she had not merely one but many strings on her fiddle, that we deny the variousness of her fiction by concentrating chiefly on its religious quality. Gooch establishes the small truth contained in this charge by showing that O’Connor did not confine herself within a religious cocoon but was keenly attuned to writers as various as T. S. Eliot and Guy de Maupassant, Caroline Gordon and William Faulkner, and even J. D. Salinger. He also demonstrates that O’Connor was remarkably alert to popular culture, finding both irony and revelation in seedy clich├ęs and banal commercials. Having seen a hucksterish stunt for a film called Mark of the Gorilla, she put it to hilarious use in Wise Blood, where an ape impersonator greets moviegoers in order to boost attendance. Yet Gooch doesn’t take time to observe the significance of Enoch Emery, the youth who seeks the tawdry fame of this pseudo-simian: Cut off from religious rituals that might have given redemptive shape to his life, Emery must invent his own ceremonial patterns for living. He bases his life on the vain promises of advertisements, making their blandishments his credo. The result is something at once farcical and pathetic, as Emery becomes a telling caricature of our unacknowledged nihilism.

Instead of attending to such moral discernments, Gooch chooses to make Freudian readings that obfuscate rather than clarify. He interprets the brilliant brat in “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” as wrestling with her dawning erotic desires, arguing that her sexuality is finally “sublimated in religious expression.” Such sexual preoccupations blind Gooch to the child’s real problem: She is afflicted with a condition far more fundamental than her prepubescent sexuality — namely, her religious pride as a Roman Catholic.


For Flannery O’Connor, a civil religion of “Do Unto Others” will never suffice. It has no metaphysical foundations to undergird it, no sacramental or prophetic communities to sustain it. Though her region was wracked with racial violence, O’Connor dealt head-on with the race question in but a single story, “The Artificial Nigger.” The problem wasn’t that racial injustice failed to arrest her imagination so much as that its solution required no keen moral discernment. As a Walker Percy character declares, the one thing requisite is obedience to a single command: Stop abusing Negroes. For similar reasons, O’Connor was drawn to southern fundamentalists, despite their inveterate scorn for Catholicism as the “whore of Babylon.” Like them, she sought something far more needful than political equality: the Faith that heals racial reformers of their false righteousness no less than racial bigots of their true sinfulness. Gooch misses the mark, therefore, when he says that O’Connor is guilty of “a type of artistic racism” for not seeking, by her own confession, to get inside the minds of her black characters. If O’Connor had focused her fiction on such matters, she might have become another Lillian Smith (the author of the 1944 novel Strange Fruit). But she might also have failed to become the greater writer she in fact became.


Having recently “outgrown” Catholicism, [Mary] McCarthy opined that she still found eucharistic symbolism literarily useful, even though she didn’t believe any of its hocus-pocus. With a candor not usually encountered at New York social gatherings, the usually taciturn O’Connor could not remain silent, even at the cost of giving great offense. “Well,” she said, “if it’s a symbol, then to hell with it.” Gooch makes nothing of this scandalous claim, nor does he deal with O’Connor’s later elaboration: “That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

The Eucharist does not merely point or gesture toward something vaguely transcendent, O’Connor was saying; it sacramentally enacts the Reality it declares: This is Christ’s life-giving body and blood, the feast without which we are literally starved of life. Or else it is a snare and a delusion that should be denounced as such. Gooch observes, instead, that O’Connor “framed her new life in religion” when her illness compelled her to return home and live with her mother back in Milledgeville for the last dozen years. Quite to the contrary, O’Connor had already framed her life — both literary and existential — in her Catholicism. “I am a Catholic not like someone else would be a Baptist or a Methodist,” she said, “but like someone else would be an atheist.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Flannery quoted by Philip Yancey in Feb 2009 "First Things"

The Catholic writer, insofar as he has the mind of the Church, will feel life from the standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that it has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wise Blood  Excerpt

Pg 16 of Three by Flannery O'Connor, from the story Wise Blood:
They were like stones! he would shout. But Jesus had died to redeem them! Jesus was so soul-hungry that He had died, one death for all, but He would have died every soul's death for one! Did they understand that? Did they understand that for for each stone soul, He would have died ten million deaths, had His arms and legs stretched on the cross and nailed ten million times for one of them?

The boy didn't need to hear it. There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin. He knew by the time he was twelve years old that he was going to be a preacher. Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on the water and not know it and suddenly know it and drown. Where he wanted to stay was in Eastrod with his two eyes open, and his hands always handling the familiar thing, his feet on the known track, and his tongue not too loose.