FrankH's Reviews > Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
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Mar 02, 2016

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Read in January, 2011

Club Read: December 2009

So, let's see what we have here? A woman gored by a bull, an old man murdering his grandaughter, the suicide of a motherless unloved boy, an accidental matricide, lives deformed by extreme insularity and racism, characters whose complete lack of self-awareness rises to the level of a fierce plot element leading irrevocably to the denouement from hell and damnation.

For O'Connor, the dead are the lucky ones -- the living, like Julian in the title story and Sheppard in 'Lame', get 'washed away in a tide of darkness' and go from spiritual myopia and self-absorbtion into either a 'world of guilt and sorrow' or, like Asbury ('Chill'), a future filled with suffering of their own making.

The power of these stories arises from the author's creative detailing of mind and heart. Here's Mrs. Turpin in Revelation cogitating on her place in a hypothetical world where God could remake and rank her as 'nigger or white trash'; Mr.Fortune obsessing on what percent of child Mary is a 'Pitts' or a 'Fortune'; Asbury fatuously plotting a 'meaningful' goodbye to his life by having a smoke 'with the Negroes, one last time'; Thomas, beside himself with misery, planting a gun for the 'little slut'. Toss into this mix some pathetic fallacy and harrowing imagery of the physical world -- 'trees thickened into mysterious dark files, marching across the water'('Woods') is one example --all sparingly used, at just the right moment and you have O'Connor channeling the Witches of Macbeth, Southern Gothic Style.

Thing is, a part of me finds the stories elitist and dated, the violent endings overdone. With 'Lame' as a possible exception, little emotional connection exists between the author and characters who are authentic, yes, but uniformly limited and of interest to this reader only by virtue of the shortcoming that will cause their undoing. It's just too pat, too easy -- the distant narrative God spinning doom for her own amusement. Further, I have to confess bewilderment at the Lit/Crit crowd and the likes, possibly, of Thomas Merton that find an underlying 'spirituality' in the writing. To me, it's bleak, bleak, bleak, and I'm with Karina: please give me a sliver of hope, redemption and light, however faint, somewhere, someplace.

As a professed Catholic, O'Connor is reported to have remarked on the need to record the reality of evil faithfully, however victorious it may be in the lives of men and women. But I'm picturing her, sitting in her bed, dying of Lupus, turning out these superby crafted, black-hole tales, scornful of this world, eager to get on to the next. Favorite tale? I like Revelation because here, as an exception, all the dark elements morph into absurdist comedy, not despair. It's Mrs. Turpin gradually internalizing a cruel personal remark until it's growing power forces a laughable confrontation with the warthog-like creatures -- and the God that made them -- in her husband's sties ..'How am I a hog? Exactly, how am I like them?...'. Thank God she wasn't trampled to death!


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