I got re-acquainted with Flannery O’Connor this summer. What a treat!– witty and sometimes biting, always insightful, faithful, and refreshing. She’s a good tonic.
I’m speaking especially of her collected prose here. The stories merit their own superlatives, of course: they hold an integrity of vision and execution characteristic of any work that deserves to be called “art” rather than “propaganda” or “entertainment.” For now, though, let’s just consider the prose.
Here’s a snippet from “The Fiction Writer and His Country.” Provoked by an editorial in “Life” magazine brimming with optimism about American power and prosperity, and decrying the lack of any American novelists who would glowingly “show us the redeeming quality of spiritual purpose,” Flannery says this:
What these editorial writers fail to realize is that the writer who emphasizes spiritual values is very likely to take the darkest view of all of what he sees in this country today. For him, the fact that we are the most powerful and the wealthiest nation in the world doesn’t mean a thing in any positive sense. The sharper the light of faith, the more glaring are apt to be the distortions the writer sees in the life around him.
Flannery’s faith was the light by which she saw things that those invested in American triumphalism did not see. The distortions she perceived in 1957 persist today: in the light of faith, power and wealth wielded solely for “me” and “mine” are nothing at the end of the day.