Maggie has found some of the language in Flannery O'Connor's stories distressing. This I understand full well, as O'Connor's fiction often makes me distinctly uncomfortable for several reasons. When my daughter fell in love with O'Connor's work, I was surprised, but decided to give O'Connor a go. With mixed results: appalled and admiring at one and the same time. Then I discovered that my much admired Dr. Rath was an O'Connor scholar...made another effort, and I did fall in love with Hulga and her wooden leg, but still found O'Connor's writing caused me great tension. And then I discovered her letters and almost immediately fell in love with the woman behind stories.
From Flannery's letters:
"I mortally and strongly defend the right of the artist to select a negative aspect of the world to portray and as the world gets more materialistic there will be much more to select from" (173).
After selling the rights to The Live You Save May Be Your Own to the General Electric Playhouse, she writes: "Mr. Shiflet and the idiot daughter will no doubt go off in a Chrysler and live happily ever after. Anyway, on account of this, I am buying my mother a new refrigerator. While they make hash out of my story, she and me will make ice in the new refrigerator" (174).
"At Emory they had a list of questions for me to answer and the first one was: Do you write from imagination or experience? My inclination at such a point is always to get deathly stupid and say, 'Ah jus writes'" (204).
"My parent took advantage of my absence to clean up my room and install revolting ruffled curtains. I can't put the dust back but I have ultimated that the curtains have got to go, lest they ruin my prose" (215).
One of Regina's (Flannery's mother) hired hands had taken the test for his driver's license numerous times and was tutored by Regina with gradually improving results: "...Wish to announce that Willie Shot Manson was granted license to drive by the State of Georgia in Sparta, Georgia on June 3 at 4:31 p.m. EST, 1957 A.D. I tell Ma she should send out engraved announcements..." (224).
An aunt had decided to finance a European tour for Flannery and Regina, and Flannery had worried about it in letters to several people, then "Here I am misinforming my dear friends a mile a minute. No I am not going to Rome nor nowhere else (except Missouri). The doctor as of yesterday says I can't go. You didn't know I had a DREAD DISEASE didja? Well I got one....I owe my existence and cheerful countenance to the pituitary glands of thousands of pigs butchered daily in Chicago Illinois at the Armour packing plant. If pigs wore garments I wouldn't be worthy to kiss the hems of them. They have been supporting my presence in this world for the last seven years. What you met here was a product of Artificial Energy" (266).
from the Letters of Flannery O'Connor: The Habit of Being
I'm only half way through this huge tome, but each time I sit down with Flannery, listen to Regina, visit Andalusia and Milledgeville, hear about her pea hens and Regina's farming difficulties and the escapades of the hired help--I enjoy every minute of the visit.