Title: The Complete Stories
Author: Flannery O’Connor
Genre(s): Historical, southern, religious (Christian/Catholic), short fiction
This is my first exposure to works by Flannery O’Connor. Even without knowing beforehand she’s a devout Catholic, a look at one or two of her stories is enough to tell you what she wants to say. She gets the religious message across in honest and painful ways, often in unlikable yet relatable characters.
Disparities in social class and racism are common themes throughout these stories. O’Connor does not shy away from these problems and tackles them head-on, and while you won’t like most of her protagonists (what with their often unsavory antiquated views and unpleasant traits), you’ll feel that twinge of guilt when you can relate to their angst and struggles. O’Connor’s depiction of the rural south is beyond my familiarity and comfort zone, yet I’m drawn in by the vivid, authentic details she sprinkles throughout the narrative. Pay attention to these details; often they reveal the emotional and spiritual state of her characters. That’s what I like most about her writing style: how she infuses theme through the landscape and the actions of her characters. I also like how she manages to pull poignant and honest dialogue out of her characters, who may not have the sharpest minds or the best grammar. Goes to show that your characters don’t need Ph.Ds to dig deep. These stories will make you uncomfortable, make you squirm, perhaps from the racism, or the unhappy fates of her characters, or the unapologetic way she hammers in theological truths, but I think that’s what she means to do, anyway. Good writing is meant to stir you and make you think.
This collection compiles her stories in chronological order, starting with The Geranium and ending with Judgment Day. Most of her stories are standalone, with the exceptions of those involving the characters named Hazel and Enoch. (There’s two or three stories about them.)
My personal favorites, because I found the characters and plotlines the most interesting and had the most impact on me: The Geranium, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, A Stroke of Good Fortune, River, The Displaced Person, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Good Country People, The Lame Shall Enter First, Parker’s Back