Day 170-- Mystery & Manners: Occasional Prose

Before dying at age 39, Flannery O'Connor wrote two novels, a series of short stories and the occasional essay or book review. In comparison to many of her peers, this may seem minuscule. But output was so monumental in stature--in presence--that her exacting prose dwarfed the more prolific authors of the 20th century.
Compiled by two of her lifelong friends, Mystery & Manners collects many of the essays, lectures, articles and notes that O'Connor penned throughout her career. Some are presented as O'Connor penned them; others are spliced together from scattered notes she left laying about.

Mystery & Manners begins with "the King of the Birds," a wry account of peacock ownership. O'Connor was an avid peacock collector, and I think she wasn't entirely sure why. The rest of the book is broken up into sections based upon the type of essay: the fiction writer and their region; the fiction writer and the Christian faith; and writer and the teaching of English literature.

While much of the material in Mystery & Manners is a blur great writing and information, several things really hit home. One: O'Connor's absolute love for her community and region; one of the worse things a writer can do is ignore their region. One of her essays was an address to a writer's guild, and she ended up critiquing the students on their attempts to sound "universal," to try to remove the local flavor from their prose. Two: O'Connor--a traditional Catholic influenced by a very Protestant South--had an intense love for Christ and His reign and knew exactly what she needed to do as a writer to show Truth and the eternal in her prose. Her essays on why she writes, what she does to write and her thoughts on Christians and writer are vital for any believer who writes. There is no hyperbole in these statements. She spoke volumes in this area, and while I think a few of her theological points are off target, she hits the target so frequently that I literally had to set the book down from shaking so much from conviction, joy, empathy.

It's no secret that O'Connor is my favorite author, and Mystery & Manners serves as a great printed collection of her thoughts on faith, writing and her region.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 2/22/2007 11:31:00 AM,


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