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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (FSG Classics)

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  2,363 Ratings  ·  247 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At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime.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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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
Apr 09, 2013 Lee rated it really liked it
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
Giovanna
Oct 09, 2015 Giovanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non leggo i libri sulla scrittura per imparare a scrivere, non sono un'aspirante scrittrice. Sono un'aspirante lettrice. E trovo che i libri sulla scrittura servano prima di tutto a imparare a leggere un testo letterario e a capire da dove venga la narrativa e perché esista. Sono perciò grata a Flannery O'Connor per questo libro fenomenale, così lucido e intelligente da essere commovente.

Ci sono due o tre nodi su cui si regge l'intero libro, che risulta una costruzione coerente e solida. Per Fla
...more
Matthew
Nov 24, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 Taka rated it really liked it
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
Autumn Privett
Jan 18, 2016 Autumn Privett rated it it was amazing
This collection is an excellent summary of Flannery's theology and general worldview. She's a wonderful thinker and this posthumous collection of essays and lectures show that. It has been said that the things said in this book are repetitive (and they are in places), but to me it shows what was important to her. She thought those topics so central to who she was that she repeated them wherever she spoke.
Elizabeth Andrew
Apr 02, 2014 Elizabeth Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
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
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
Cassy
Nov 03, 2009 Cassy rated it liked it
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
♥ 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
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.”
Ben Loory
May 28, 2015 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i wish she was as clear about catholicism as she was about storytelling
Danielle
Oct 09, 2016 Danielle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love her more than ever.
Heather
Sep 29, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mary
Apr 01, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Erika Robuck
Jun 26, 2015 Erika Robuck rated it really liked it
O'Connor's reflections on the duty of the writer (in particularly the Catholic writer) are fascinating and thought-provoking. She also brought up the challenges facing the writer of a given faith in a secular society where relativism is the god. There was much I intuited before reading this, but she named it for me.
Nathan Huffstutler
Mar 10, 2016 Nathan Huffstutler rated it really liked it
Flannery O’Connor’s stories are some of the most intense ones I’ve ever read. Her protagonists are strange and arrogant people, and by the end of the stories, they are often on the receiving end of some sort of jarring violence. The reader finishes a Flannery O'Connor story with a rapid heartbeat.

But O’Connor is not writing simply to shock her readers. Her stories are well-designed, and she knows exactly what she’s doing. She's showing the reality of evil and the need for grace. N. D. Wilson, di
...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
Bruce
Jan 02, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
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
Philipp
May 14, 2015 Philipp rated it really liked it
Shelves: clubbing, essays, 1960s
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
Cheri
Jul 26, 2011 Cheri rated it it was amazing
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
Karen
Jan 02, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, memoir
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 ...more
Laura
Jan 25, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
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 ...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 ...more
Eric North
Aug 08, 2013 Eric North rated it liked it
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
Michael
Jan 02, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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Book Talk: Mystery and Manners 2 4 Jul 09, 2012 07:16AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: "Occasional Prose" by Flannery O'Connor 1 4 May 06, 2012 07:23AM  
  • Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
  • One Writer's Beginnings
  • Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
  • Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
  • Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing
  • Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
  • Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age
  • The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • The Deep Zoo
  • Waiting for God
  • The Paris Review Interviews, III
  • Aspects of the Novel
  • The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor
  • Studies in Words
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
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Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. O’Connor wrote two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and two story collections, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1964). Her Complete Stories, published posth ...more
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