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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  2,019 ratings  ·  206 reviews
At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime. The keen writings comprising Mystery and Manners, selected and edited by O'Connor's lifelong friends Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, are characterized by the directness and simp ...more
Paperback, 237 pages
Published 1970 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard
This book of essays gives us some of Flannery O'Connor's thoughts about what it was like for her to be a Catholic writer in the American South. Her writing shows the personality of someone who is confident of her own experience and ability, and yet (at least most of the time) quite humble about it too.

O'Connor writes with wit (ranging from wry humour to sarcasm) about the incomprehension or disapproval with which her short stories and novels were met by many contemporary readers. She stresses t
...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
A Confession:

Two or three times I began writing a review and later tossed them away. For I was not happy with what came about as a review.

A Fact:

This is one of the posthumous collections of essays by F. O'Connor and is my first O'Connor book. O'Connor is revered for her short stories and fiction more than for her prose writing. Moreover, this collection has some essays which were not yet revised for publication.

The Result:

I ended up liking her writing and am really hungry for all of her writing
...more
Lee
Ms. O'Connor sometimes seems to me like a didactic pedantic generalizer, but in general I like her. Flat-out loved the opening peacock essay and wish there were more slice of essayistic life in here to complement the must-read/essential essays that reveal her as a literary fundamentalist, albeit one whose ideation be animated by denominational spirits, a religiousity that's maybe her strength and weakness in this collection, as in the story collection I read earlier this year (A Good Man Is Hard ...more
Matthew
O'Connor averred that she wrote as she did because she was Catholic, and that, as a Catholic, she couldn't write any other way. She may have most readily identified herself this way, but this collection is proof positive that she was first and foremost a writer. As a critic, she was an apostle of Henry James, deeply unsentimental (indeed, a hilariously unapologetic misopedist), an enemy of excess, a believer in humility ("the first product of self-knowledge"), and, above all, gloriously quotable ...more
Taka
In reading Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners, I was inspired and found so many things relevant to my situation as a writer and teacher. I will respond to her book in two parts, first from the standpoint of a teacher and second from that of a fiction writer.

One of the tips that may be useful in teaching creative writing is her insistence that fiction must, before all else, be concrete and appeal to the senses. One of my students likes to write abstractly because, he says, it will allow diff
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Kate Savage
I dislike so many things about Flannery O'Connor -- her dogmatic Catholicism, her venom toward the faithless world and other would-be writers -- and yet all the same I'm in love with her. I'm not the only one; what's wrong with us?

O'Connor's the mean girl in your writers' group:

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher. The idea of being a
...more
Elizabeth Andrew
I'm kicking myself for not reading MYSTERY AND MANNERS years ago. Flannery O'Connor is a fiction writer, I told myself; what could she teach me about spiritual memoir writing? And yet some of these are the best essays I've ever read about addressing the spiritual life in prose.

If a writer is any good, what he makes will have its source in a realm much larger than that which his conscious mind can encompass and will always be a greater surprise to him than it can ever be to his reader.
--Flanner
...more
Jamie
I went 1-for-3 on Flannery last week, and as you can see, this was the one that spoke a lot of my language. On community; on place; on writing and mystery. Her essays are something ferocious.

“A story that is any good can’t be reduced, it can only be expanded. A story is good when you continue to see more and more in it, and when it continues to escape you. In fiction two and two is always more than four.”
♥ Ibrahim ♥
I have known Southern women to have special fondness for birds and this would be the first chapter in her book as she share with the genius of a witty artist and in charming detail her observations of the peacock as well as people whom she observed; in fact, people who might have eyes and don't see, ears and don't hear, but Flannery delves deep into what she observes and so her book comes in such a vividly and exuberantly alive fashion as if it was written so recently, even though this book was ...more
Ben Loory
i wish she was as clear about catholicism as she was about storytelling
Cassy
Nov 03, 2009 Cassy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cassy by: Creative Writing Professor R. Liddell
This is a collection of essays and speeches complied after O’Connor’s death. It is divided into six parts. I thought I’d organize my review accordingly.

I. A Short Story – very entertaining. I am glad the editors included this story among all the essays. I had never read any of her short stories or novels. This established my respect for her talent.

II. Southern Literature – fairly interesting, although maybe obsolete. I had not really realized that there was such a genre, which is pretty sad sinc
...more
Jeremy
The first few sections in this are really killer. O'Connor has this down to earth, conversational way of talking about fiction and how it works. Her voice comes through in a lot of these pieces just as strongly as it does in her fiction. And what's more, she compellingly offers an idea of why fiction (or at least good fiction), with its willingness to present us with the profundities of human action instead of cheap, sentimental, reductive crap, is an essential form of expression. Unfortunately, ...more
Heather
Who knew an isolated lupus-suffering hyper-religious Catholic in the smack middle of Georgia could be so hot damn funny!

Seriously, a victory.

I think what makes Flannery O'Connor's aesthetic so brilliant is its combination of two themes: what she calls the "violent" and the "comic." Her literature, like her essays, is both funny and deeply, unabashedly brutal. For O'Connor writing, like reading, isn't a science or an exercise in sentimentality. We don't -and shouldn't- read for enjoyment. We read
...more
Mary
I love this book. It's Flannery O'Connor at her best, her nonfiction best, that is: wry, funny, and razor sharp. I can't believe she died when she was 39; or, more specifically, I can't believe she could write all she did, know all she did and live it all before age 40. Remarkable. God had a hold on her.

This book is a collection of O'Connor's speeches, some excerpts from letters and essays she wrote. She's relentless in her commentary/critique of bad--sentimental--art and laziness. And she's exh
...more
Philipp
Mystery and Manners (1969)
Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964)
Essays (237 pp.)
1957-1963; Georgia
One essay on having peafowl (i.e., cocks and hens) and the remainder on writing and Catholicism (as it relates to being an artist)

Semi-Random Semi-Representative Sample:
From my own experience in trying to make stories “work,” I have discovered that what is needed is an action that is totally unexpected, yet totally believable, and I have found that, for me, this is always an action which indicates that grace
...more
Ashley
Outstanding. It’s a rich little how-to on writing realistic (rather than sentimental) fiction, in the words of the “writers’ writer” herself. If you’ve never read O’Connor (as I hadn’t before picking up this book), Mystery and Manners is the ideal place to start—having it under your belt will make her fiction much more accessible. Highly recommended.
Bruce
After recently reading Miss O'Connor's prayer journal, it was easy to convince myself to read more of her. The raw honesty and unpretentious of her thinking really struck a chord within me.

This book contains several of her essays that present her thinking of how to be a fiction writer. I truly have not seen anyone, even David Foster Wallace, whom I admire greatly, better express what is required of a writer. The following excerpt should illustrate this:

"The beginning of human knowledge is throug
...more
Cheri
One of the most startling things about this posthumous collection of lectures and essays is to realize just how young Flannery O'Conner was when she died. Before age 39 she possessed more brazen confidence and piercing understanding of literary craft than I ever hope to achieve. Plus, her writing is full of style and personality, wit and a no-nonsense attitude.

If I tried to sum up O'Conner's take on how to write well, it might go like this: soak yourself in the "manners"--the daily actions, cust
...more
Becky Pliego
This is a must read for all those who want to be able to fully understand O'Connor's short stories. After reading this book, I have no doubt that Flannery O'Connnor is not only and amazing writer, but one who truly understands sin and redemption.

A few of my favorite quotes:

"I have heard it said that belief in Christian dogma is a hindrance to the writer, but I myself have found nothing further from the truth. Actually, it frees the storyteller to observe. It is not a set of rules which fixes wh
...more
Karen
This collection of essays was my introduction to the writer Flannery O'Connor. I have seen her work discussed and suggested at various book blogs I trust. This seemed as good a place as any to start. The first essay, on living with peacocks, was worth the price of admission. I enjoy O'Connor's dry humor even when I'm not sure I agree with her conclusions (and, I must admit, many of her conclusions go right over my head).

The essays are somewhat cobbled together, a few were published but several a
...more
Christian Engler
For anyone wanting to understand the theory and importance of writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, get this book. Flannery O' Connor delves deeply into the mystery of writing, why people do it, struggle over it, sacrifice so much of themselves in order to do it, to a slew of other fantastic bits of information and reasons. Mystery and Manners has narrowed my own overly broad understanding of why I write. It has helped me to focus, not on just the many types of writing, but also on the t ...more
Laura
Not being the biggest fan of Flannery O'Connor's fiction, I wasn't expecting to particularly enjoy this - but, it surprised me. She has a lot of great things to say about writing and about the state of "modern" fiction. Many of her comments are specific to Southern and Catholic writing, but I still enjoyed most of the essays. I wouldn't recommend reading them all in a row; she tends to dwell on the same points. But as a "pick up and read one every so often" book, I'd give this a thumbs up. I rea ...more
Eric North
These essays and articles held my attention right up until the last several pieces, which began to sound redundant and cover the same basic issues in different contexts (the southern fiction writer, the grotesque, the catholic writer, etc.). In this collection O'Connor often puts forth the role of mystery in any worthwhile fiction, and that one's Christian faith, if properly appropriated, should deepen the sense of mystery and focus their senses to the manners of the people written about. It's a ...more
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
Her specific commentary on Catholicism (as distinct from a more general anti-secularism which she absolutely nails) is generally the weakest part for me, but her sharp eye on writing, education, human nature, and both the South and the nation in general shouldn't be overlooked. There is a reason her stories have such depth; behind them lies a woman who is thoughtful, intelligent, confident, critical, and above all, a great believer in the mystery of existence. If that doesn't reach a reader of h ...more
Catherine Gillespie
Flannery O’Connor’s book on writing, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose was excellent; I’d recommend it to all writers, but particularly to writers who are also people of faith.

In the book, O’Connor devotes a lot of space to the importance of using honest regional settings (she calls this the “manners” of the place) and figuring out your own region and your place within it. “To know oneself,” O’Connor writes, “is to know one’s region. It is also to know the world, and it is also, paradoxicall
...more
Jessica McOmish
i am sympathetic to the plight of the Catholic and the Novelist and where the twain might meet, and still I couldn't make it through all those latter pages where she talks of hoping for a world of believers. But this in itself proves her own point that the novel need be good in itself, and about people and grace and not determined to make too firm a point.

"I think it is usually some form of self-inflation that destroys the free use of a gift."

In spite of this, a dozen or two of similar-such five
...more
Haley
Apr 19, 2014 Haley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Haley by: Smith Prep
My class analyzed her article titled "Writing Short Stories."

I absolutely agree with Flannery O’Connor’s view of the strong relationship between reading and writing. I personally believe that the style of writing that one reads affects their own writing. There was one specific part of O’Connor’s article that I really connected with. “I know a good many fiction writers who paint…because it helps their writing…Fiction writing is very seldom a matter of saying things; it is a matter of showing thin
...more
Realini
Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor

From a writer I had not heard of a few months ago, Flannery O’Connor became one of my all time favorites. She is intimidating – in Mystery and Manners she writes about the writer, the reader, her faith and the impact it has and hasn’t on her prose.
To begin with, in the first part of the book we learn about her birds, the peacocks. She had about 50 at one point, “nesting” all around the yard. I have two macaws, a different type of bird, but I empathize and
...more
Trice
Apr 17, 2015 Trice rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers and ppl who love and pay attention to good writing
I loved this collection. I was basically reading an essay a day, with an extra here or there. Love her perceptions of writing and getting to the heart of being. Some of her stories (which actually weren't in this particular book, but anyway) feel rather grim at times, but she has that glimmer of hope and redemption always lurking. In this particular book she gives a bit of the why and how. Keep wondering what we would have seen from her pen if she had lived longer
Gavin Breeden
A collection of terrific essays by the one and only Mary Flannery O'Connor. For anyone interested in writing fiction and any Christians interested in how the Christian faith ought to influence and interact with the arts (particularly fiction writing), this is a must. Some of her best quotes are here. I think I underlined or marked something on just about every page.

There's gold in them there hills.
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Book Talk: Mystery and Manners 2 4 Jul 09, 2012 07:16AM  
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
  • One Writer's Beginnings (William E.Massey Senior Lectures in the History of American Civilization) (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
  • Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • Waiting for God
  • The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing
  • The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction
  • Studies in Words
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
  • Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
  • Aspects of the Novel
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Living by Fiction
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
  • Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
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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
More about Flannery O'Connor...
The Complete Stories A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories Wise Blood Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories The Violent Bear it Away

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