Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,698 ratings  ·  175 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At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime.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 1957)
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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
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
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 as a Catholic, 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 quo...more
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...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.
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
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
Flannery O'Connor

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If I had the financial means to put this on every reader's bookshelf I would. So I will do my best with literary means- words. Here are the first seven reasons for reading this book that came to mind.

1. You will return to (or arrive at for the first time, in which case you're in for a powerful and wonderful ride) her short stories with a deeper appreciation.

[Full disclosure: when I first picked up O'Connor's fiction I could not see why so many people...more
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
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
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
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
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
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
2/27 - I actually finished this Wednesday but I've been busy since then (thankfully).

The essays in the middle are the best, while I did enjoy the last few cuz of my recent interest in Catholocism, I'm sot sure if they say anything not already better-said in the previous ones. The beginnings one were sorta whatever to me, I should re-read her stuff that I am (think I am?) a Real Reader

2/20 - she's pretty cranky! i like it!!!

2/18 - I skimmed/skipped most of the "southern writer/fiction" stuff at t...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
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
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
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.
Flannery O'Connor is such a phenomenal writer that it makes my heart ache. This collection of her non-fiction essays, ranging from her whimsical account of her experience raising peafowl to more serious treatments dealing with the vocation of being a Catholic novelist, is intoxicating in its clarity and insightfulness. Anyone who values the written word would be well-advised to add this to his library.
Matthew Hurley
Beyond excellent. This collection of essays demonstrates Flannery's wisdom, spiritual fervor, artistic precision, and disarming humor. Read this if you don't "get" her stories. Read this if you are at all interested in the intersection of faith and art. Read this if you are a Christian. Read this if you are human.
One extra star for the funniest thing ever written about peacocks. One extra star for the funniest thing ever written about childhood disease. The American writer. Not a word is out of place.
Justin Lonas
Possibly the best writing about writing (particularly fiction) since Aristotle's Poetics.

A well-lit window into the mind of an excellent storyteller.
D. Biswas
A book that changed the way I thought about writing, and impressed on me the importance of the story. Any aspiring author should buy this book, and cherish it.
Stephen Knezovich
O'Connor breaks down the art of fiction writing. Lots of wit and insight, but for me, the religious stuff drags a bit.
Patrick Todoroff
If you’ve hung around forums and websites for Christian fiction writers, you’ve no doubt bumped into a recurring set of discussions:

What are a faith-based writer’s obligations before God?
How theologically-correct does a story have to be? How evangelistic?
How realistic can the depictions of a fallen world and unsaved characters be?
Where exactly is the line for profanity? violence? pornography?
When does it slip into being gratuitous and become a stumbling block?

Vital questions to be sure, and ones...more
With this collection of essays O'conner solidified my belief in the concrete. For both of us there is no such thing as writing a story so as to communicate some kind of philosophy--especially for the novice. There is only writing a story which by virtue of its having an author has a philosophy. If ideas are going to be communicated, they are going to be through the concrete. Ahab has his whale, Raskolnikov his ax, but to tell a story abstract object first is to fail to tell a story at all. Volta...more
Garrett Cash

Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners changed my life.
Ever since I discovered that you could get paid to make movies, I've wanted to be a filmmaker. I never really knew what kind of movies I would want to make, but I knew that's what I wanted to do more than anything.
Last year around December, I discovered Southern Gothic literature. Before this discovery, I wasn't quite sure what I thought of my homeland. I knew I loved it and enjoyed it, but I almost felt embarrassed to be a Southerner. Cul...more
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Book Talk: Mystery and Manners 2 4 Jul 09, 2012 07:16AM  
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • 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
  • The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing
  • Waiting for God
  • The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction
  • Studies in Words
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
  • The Mind of the Maker
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • The Paris Review Interviews, III
  • Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry
  • Not-Knowing:  The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme
  • Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
  • The Great Code: The Bible and Literature
  • Aspects of the Novel
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 Everything That Rises Must Converge Wise Blood The Violent Bear it Away

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