“The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor”

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor is one of the classics that I’m kicking myself I only got around to now. She’s emotionally brutal, her titles are brilliant, and the stories make me think and feel. This is the end to my self-education on O’Connor that started with Wise Blood, then Brad Gooch’s Flannery and now this. Not all the works from her tragically short life, but plenty to see her themes of pain, alienation, fear of change, and religious struggle.

In the weeks after I read this, I found connections again and again in real life, in what I was reading, and in what I was watching on TV.

These stories will stick with me. Even if I forget which title goes with which story, I bet I’ll be able to recall these as long as I’m able to recall things: the surprise ending of The Barber, the car trip in A Good Man is Hard to Find, the general in A Late Encounter with the Enemy, the tractor scene in The Displaced Person, the Bible salesman in Good Country People, Mary Fortune and her grandfather in A View of the Woods, the invalid Asbury in The Enduring Chill, the bus trip in Everything that Rises Must Converge, the asylum visit of The Partidge Festival, the well-meaning father who tries to take in a troubled boy in The Lame Shall Enter First, the doctor’s office in Revelation, the tattoo of Parker’s Back, and the reworking of The Geranium in Judgment Day, her last complete story.

While the book works terrifically as a whole, from its first story, The Geranium, to its last, Judgment Day, I don’t recommend reading it all at once. I started this way, and had to stop. The stories have a lot of similarity, so run together if read together, but stand apart when read over a period of time, as I did, a story at a time between other books.

5 Responses to ““The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor””

  1. Carol in Oregon Says:

    Thank you for this. I’m in the nascent stages of an O’Connor education. A friend recommended starting with her letters.

    I shrink back a bit from delving into the stories. It seems they require some effort, but you remind me that it will be worth it.

    I love stories that stick with me.

  2. Cindy Swanson Says:

    I’ve yet to read anything by Flannery O’Connor, though I’ve wanted to for a while! In the show “Lost,” (my favorite TV show of all time) when a book showed up, it was always signficant. “Everything That Rises Must Converge” was one of those books.

    Great blog!

    Cindy @ Cindy’s Book Club

  3. Jennifer Reese Says:

    I read this in high school and then again later, just once, and the story about the contemptuous young man and his mother on the bus — is that Everything Rises? — has never left me. It flashes on my mind regularly, had real power for me. I’m glad you’re back!

  4. girldetective Says:

    Jennifer, that is exactly the story, and exactly the kind of power I felt reading these stories. It had a parallel with a theme in the manuscript of one of the women in my writing group, too, which made it still timely. And even with Stuff White People Like, which has more than one entry on earnest liberals who want to be open minded yet are often obliviously inept about it.

  5. Rita Mae Says:

    You might want to try The Life You Save May Be Your Own, the biography that Paul Elie did of O’Connor, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy. It’s an excellent book and contains the best biography of O’Connor I’ve read.