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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor
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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

4.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,415 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Special Award

"I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O'Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her letters . . . There she stands, a phoenix risen from her own words: calm, slow, funny, courteous, both modest and very sure of herself, intense, sharply penetrating, devout but nev
Paperback, 640 pages
Published August 1st 1988 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1978)
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Joe Valdez
Sep 06, 2015 Joe Valdez rated it really liked it
Shelves: letters
Don't know when I'll send those stories. I've felt too bad to type them.

Flannery O'Connor wrote the last sentence of her last letter on August 3, 1964, six days before the systemic lupus she'd been fighting since her diagnosis in 1951 attacked her immune system and took her life. This makes me wonder what the last sentence I'll ever write is going to be. The prevalence of social media does not bode well for cosmic insight.

O'Connor had returned to Midgeville, Georgia to be cared for by her mother
Cindy Rollins
Nov 19, 2015 Cindy Rollins rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I did not expect to love this. Up until now I have not loved Flannery O'Connor's writing. Now I love her writing and herself. I have spent almost the entire year reading these letters. At first it was slow going, I pictured myself getting through them quickly and that was not happening.

Eventually reading a few letters a day became a habit for me and now I am forlorn. I have finished my conversations with Flannery. She is silent. Her life was short. Her wit, skill, and friendliness remains.

Mar 07, 2013 Michiel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: memoir, catholic
This was the book that converted me. I don't like anything else that O'Connor writes, and I never read collections of letters: never did before and never have since. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit led me to this book and allowed my mind and heart to open to conversion.

O'Connor is funny, thoughtful, thought-provoking. This is absolutely one of my favorite books of all time.
Jul 24, 2011 Jeannine rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I came to this book through a general knowledge of Flannery O'Connor and attempts over the years to read her fiction. Reading someone's letters is like receiving an invitation into their entire world, especially geography/setting, their relationships (the other correspondents end up being as central as the writer), and the daily details of one's life (which I always find to be the most interesting part of the correspondence).

Flannery O'Connor suffered from lupus and was mostly confined to live h
Julie Davis
Oct 18, 2010 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing
This is by my bedside and I am really enjoying reading Flannery O'Connor's letters which at this early stage of the book are mostly to her publishers about problems OR to pals about life in general. A definite personality is emerging and I like her.

Update: this is so super-long and I keep comparing it to The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song (also very long) and wondering why I don't just pick one of them? Answer: both are very different and very good. I am growing to love Flannery
Mar 01, 2010 Melinda rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian, biography
I have been taught by those older and wiser that I should continually educate myself towards an understanding and appreciation of excellence. This means that my personal preference is what I like without trying, and what is excellent is sometimes what I must learn to like. So, reading is like food. Stick with a lifetime of twinkies and all you get is bad health and a rotten brain! Teach yourself to like excellent reading, just like you teach yourself to like excellent food (which for me is a ste ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Mia rated it it was amazing
I like how the singular Ms. Mary Flannery O'Connor signs off:

I hope you are finished with the grip and feel well again.
I didn’t get any Guggenheim.
Let me hear how you do.
They look like domesticated vultures.
My momma sends hers for the season..
Hey nonny nonny and ha hah ha…
No great hardship.
I am going to be the World Authority on Peafowl, and I hope to be offered a chair some day at the Chicken College.
I don’t make no plans.
I manage to pray but am a very sloppy faster.
My word.
This refers to the f
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O'Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her letters," writes Sally Fitzgerald in her introduction to The Habit of Being. This extensive collection of letters provides an invaluable glimpse into O'Connor's world, beginning with her first query letter to her agent in 1948 and ending with her last note of 1964, left on her bedside table. The Habit of Being traces the development of an enigmatic human bein ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Biography. Letters. Literary. Religion. So much more...
Apr 02, 2012 Francisco rated it it was amazing
This is probably the third time I've read this book. There's something about this woman's humor and vision in the face of her illness that is so strengthening. I like her responses to those who wrote offering to marry her after they heard that she had published "A Good Man is Hard to Find." She makes me laugh so much. Her letters are an open windows to her gritty, gritty, life-loving soul.
Feb 14, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
O'Connor's letters are funny, pungent ---and surprisingly, deep.

I'm not so sure about her religious sentiments which are old school Catholic. But I admire her bravery, her bemused take on life's endless banality, and her wicked sense of humor.

I didn't realize how seriously she took her art and admire that, too.
Marco Freccero
Jan 02, 2015 Marco Freccero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americani
Sally Fitzgerald è alta 1 metro e 60 e pesa a dir tanto 43 chili tranne quando è incinta, cioè quasi sempre.

La lettura di un epistolario è forse una pratica che può essere considerata poco interessante, anche quando il suo autore è uno scrittore (o scrittrice, come nel nostro caso). In fondo, si pensa, chi scrive offre il meglio di sé nei racconti, nei romanzi. Le lettere a editor, confidenti, amici o amiche, cosa possono aggiungere alla sua grandezza? Non esiste il rischio di farcelo vedere tro
Aug 21, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Love, love, love Mary Flannery O'Connor!

I hope to worship God in the New Jerusalem with her. I wish she hadn't had to go through suffering to get there, though. I wish none of us did. But Adam and Eve tripped on a snake with a lie in its fangs.

She was beautiful, though, really beautiful.

I love this quote about her faith, "Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy--fully armed too as it's a highly dangerous quest."

I love her funnyness, "At Emory they had a list of questions for me to answer an
Sep 17, 2013 JoAnna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrible or even to enjoy anything." (p.114)

"I am largely worried by wingless chickens...I only know I believe in the complete chicken. You think about the complete chicken for a while." (p. 21)

I can hardly begin to write a sufficient review for this marvelous, marvelous volume of Flannery O'Connor's letters. Her wit, faith, tremendous humor, and earthiness continue to reverberate in
Feb 21, 2010 nicole rated it liked it
Shelves: couldnt-finish, 2010
i can't quite call reading a third of this book and then putting it down because you're tired of trying to figure out the logistics of taking a 600 page hardcover book, your lunch and your gym bag to work every day "couldn't finish."

i love flannery o'conner's dry wit that is so evident in some of her shorter letters, particularly to those on the publishing side. every time i thought of quitting, another correspondent would be added in the mix and i couldn't do it. and i told myself to read thro
Mariella Mavrakis
Feb 16, 2012 Mariella Mavrakis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Les lettres: une façon de mettre par écrit tout le fonds de sa pensée sur tout et sur tous... Au moins il n'y a pas de souci de non-dits... Elle ne mâche pas ses mots, elle se laisse aller à tout divulguer, sans souci de choquer, rien ne la retient, elle est authentique, franche, cassante et directe!!! Elle balance tout, sans pincette, sans remords, elle se lâche... Elle ironise, elle est sarcastique, elle joue avec les mots... Elle n'a rien a perdre, vu qu'elle est malade sur le point de mourir ...more
May 29, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
"Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic." -Flannery O'Connor

A favorite patron actually pulled me into the stacks with her to look for a copy of this book when she realized I had not read it (many thanks to you Sister M.). Religion, writing, and the South are explored in these weekly letters to O'Connor's best friend Betty Hester. Works great as a companion book to O'Conn
Dec 28, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Confession: I love reading other people's letters. I do aim to stick to published ones, though -- it's sinless that way but it still feels a little whoo whoo and peekish.

Flannery's letters take the cake. For many years now I've kept this book out handy, and I read a letter at a time -- okay, sometimes a half dozen or more -- whenever the mood hits me. O'Connor is witty, wise, brilliantly expressive and even a tad gossipy by turns.

This book is always fresh. I once saw it listed somewhere as one
John Cooper
Mar 22, 2014 John Cooper rated it it was amazing
This remarkable book, which I've read over a period of years, distills and reveals the great personality of our best Southern writer, particularly as it is revealed and expressed by the two pillars of her life: fiction and faith. There is a stunning directness here, a deliberate willingness to be herself, that underlies every letter, from the most formal, carefully considered letters to strangers, to the most whimsical and idiosyncratic dispatches to intimates. She is sharp, but never mean; mode ...more
Emma Colpani
Mar 08, 2016 Emma Colpani rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana
Il carteggio della O'Connor, che copre sedici anni, documenta i suoi rapporti con l'editore e gli amici più intimi, oltre che la gestazione dei due romanzi e dei numerosi racconti: essa ci mostra le scelte e i ripensamenti che hanno portato alle stesure che oggi leggiamo.
Costretta all'inattività per via della sua grande croce, il lupus eritematoso, che affronterà con “proverbiale superbo stoicismo”, si dedica alle passioni della scrittura e della cura del pollame. Si sente un'autrice incompresa
Rebecca R. Vincent
Jan 17, 2015 Rebecca R. Vincent rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's hard to read a book of letters through, but this one was worth the effort. Flannery's personality, wit, depth, and faith are front and center in a compilation of letters she wrote to various contacts throughout her life. Her literary insights, observations of her own writing failures and successes, as well as her challenging thoughts on faith are all here.
Jay Shelat
Jul 29, 2015 Jay Shelat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this very technology-driven world, writing a letter has become, understandably so, obsolete. Yet, the act of composing letters is beautiful. The personal quality of it emphasizes it as something so wonderful. That’s to me, at least. We live in an era where phones dictate our very being: we wake up and read over the happenings that were missed while we slept; we crave instant knowledge to keep up in an unstable and consistently shifting world. Now, I’m not saying that these are bad things; I l ...more
Terri Jacobson
Apr 17, 2013 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
A comprehensive collection of the prolific letters of Flannery O'Connor. Very interesting to any great fans of O'Connor's work. I found it fascinating, and it really helps me appreciate her writings with more depth and detail.
Mar 09, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-memoir-bios
A friend of mine told me that she liked memoirs and books of correspondence. As an editor herself, I think she learned more about a person by the way sentences were shaped. (She has passed away.) Well, a couple of months later, I found this book at a yard sale. She was delighted to have it and started to read it that evening. When I saw her the next week, she lent the book back to me, saying that she wanted someone to discuss it with. That'll teach me! This book is over 600 pages long. Fortunate ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible.
Tom Bensley
Jan 03, 2015 Tom Bensley rated it it was amazing
The Letters of Flannery O’Connor (The Habit of Being)

I thought about writing a traditional review, where I ramble on about how I felt about this and that in the book and try and find a consistent point to all my thoughts, but I won’t do that this time. An author’s correspondence covers such a wide range of topics and themes and tells so many stories (and is always a bit mysterious when you don’t get the respondent’s letters) that it’s difficult to write a review that it covers it, and it usually
John Wiswell
Aug 11, 2007 John Wiswell rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: O'Connor fans, literary readers interested in deeper understanding on composition
If you can get passed the fact that these are the letters of a dead woman who might not have wanted you to see them, Habit of Being is a treasure trove. You get to watch one of the great writers of her time worry for other writers and for her own fiction, see what interested her in religious and social studies, and get a sense for what went on in her life when she read anything. You also get some hilarious moments, such as her summarizing the desperate short story of "Greenleaf" as the story of ...more
Mark Herring
Feb 12, 2016 Mark Herring rated it it was amazing
These letters to various correspondents mark O'Connor as a woman of the Word she believed. Few authors would have taken as much time and energy to reply as fully and honestly as she did. Much of the theology that drove her wonderful work (I've read all her books) is revealed in this poignant, merciful letters. That God sometimes write straight with a crooked hand is revealed and explained in these magisterial letters.
Neville Tirimba Ogoti
The letters are interesting, if you're a voyeur. In one letter she sounds ecstatic after reading one novel. In her letters she's not pretentious, she just uses plain English and some dialect. We also get an air of her sarcastic personality through her letters. It was this same sarcasm that makes her (in my opinion) the best short story writer of all time.
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Constant Reader Classics Corner 22 64 Jan 05, 2009 08:46PM  
  • Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
  • The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
  • Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
  • Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
  • Charles Dickens: A Critical Study
  • The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist
  • Plant Dreaming Deep
  • The Last Interview and Other Conversations
  • Waiting for God
  • Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A Defense of One's Life)
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • Not-Knowing:  The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme
  • Theology and Sanity
  • With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830
  • Art and Scholasticism With Other Essays
  • Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England
  • Another Sort of Learning
Mary Flannery O’Connor was an American novelist, short-story writer and essayist. O’Connor’s writing often reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.

Her The Complete Stories received the 1972 National Book Award for Fiction. In a 2009 online poll conducted by the National Book Foundation, the collection was named the best work to have won the
More about Flannery O'Connor...

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“I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.” 1078 likes
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” 368 likes
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