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

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
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Dec 26, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, short-stories, 1001
Read in December, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Our parish priest read an excerpt from the short story "Revelation".

==Everything that Rises Must Converge==
I just read the first story... It's very powerful. At first, when it was still unclear exactly what was bothering Julian, I thought I can relate to him. I could sort of see myself. I didn't approve of his sulking, but sometimes you just don't see things as clearly in yourself as in other people from aside. I should do better!

What exactly is the meaning of the phrase "meet self coming and going"? Not a native speaker and this phrase makes no sense to me.

On page 12 (in my copy) this sentence occurs: "Most miraculous of all, instead of being blinded by love for her as she was for him, he had cut himself emotionally free of her and could see her with complete objectivity." And I immediately thought at this: "What a jerk!" Just had this huge reaction to that...

The ending is significant, considering the scenarios that have been running through his mind on the bus... I guess Julian's mother wasn't the only one who got a "lesson" (although it sounds callous when I put it this way).

==Greenleaf==
I didn't "get" the second story, it just seemed to drag on about the woman who is disappointed in her two sons, and envying her hired help for their sons... Whatever; I didn't get attached to any characters.

==A View of the Woods==
The third story is about the dangers of stubbornness. I think Mr. Fortune loved the granddaughter, but by the end we find out that his love is kind of selfish, he loves her in so far as she is like him... It's ironic to me that Mr Fortune doesn't see his own stubbornness reflected in Mary Fortune, thinks that it's some Pitts trait.

What's still a bit of a mystery to me in the story is why would Mary Fortune deny that her dad beat her, if it was true? Could Mr. Fortune misunderstand what he was seeing? On the other hand, why wouldn't Mary Fortune elaborate on it, if it wasn't true; explain what actually happened between her and dad...

As far as violence at the end of every story (I didn't know that's how it's going to go when I began)... Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I believe anyone can be redeemed, so some of these deaths seem rather senseless. In the first story it certainly made a satisfying end to me, but not quite so much in the second and third.

==The Enduring Chill==
In The Enduring Chill did Asbury die in the end or not? It sort of seemed ambiguous to me; perhaps he'd consider being alive a fate worse than death. He thought he was going to die and he was ready for that; considered it a kind of reward from the Art whose faithful servant he was. But the doctor told him he would live with this persistent sickness that would keep coming back. That would give two meaning to the title of the story: the figurative "enduring chill" that he had meant his mother to experience upon reading his letter after his death, and the literal "enduring chill" that Asbury is going to go through for the rest of his life with this sickness.

==Overall impressions==
I kinda stopped reviewing each story after finishing them, and just went onto reading the next one. Reading the reviews of this short stories collection gave me the impression that every story ends in a tragic death, but turns out only 67% of them do. I've enjoyed this little book, although I'm not usually a fan of the short story genre. Still Flannery O'Connor can make the characters come alive in my mind in few words. These stories (most of the time) sort of show in exaggerated form the moral weaknesses that we have.

I noticed that from the first story (see Everything That Rises Must Converge above). Then there's The Lame Shall Enter First - probably the story I liked the best, which just goes to show how we tend to be better toward strangers than toward our own family, perhaps because we seek their approval, we present this kind of facade... "facade" may not be quite the right word, since we may be sincere in wanting to help out, but we just tend to dismiss our own family, with whom we live all the time, whose "negatives" we tend to see more clearly. But when Sheppard adopted this youngster (to help out this child he perceived as smart but from poor background without opportunity), he discovered all the negatives of Rufus, and wished to be rid of him. Sheppard figured out that he should have spent more for his own child, shown him as much compassion and patience, tried to figure out what he's interested in, etc.

Well, I know for sure that the strangers think better of me than I really deserve; because it's true I tend to do more for strangers than family. I'm involved in all these activities that my parents know almost nothing of... To the point that once at some event at the university, someone commented to my mom about how wonderful they think I am with all the stuff I'm involved with and my mom had no idea what that person was talking about (and I know that my mom was kinda upset about it, because she mentioned this incident to me recently - years after it happened).

So in a way these stories serve as a mirror in which you can see yourself in exaggerated form. They don't tell you how to change, what to do instead, but seeing the issue is half the battle ;)
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by booklady (new)

booklady I don't remember that particular story but I know that she is very addicting. You just can't read one. And I say/write that as someone who isn't even a fan of the short story genre--but O'Connor is really thought-provoking. I didn't "get" all of her stories...but the ones I did, WOW!


message 2: by booklady (new)

booklady 'To meet oneself coming and going' is to be so busy that you don't see what you're doing and you create extra work for yourself. It is usually used jokingly as a lightly self-deprecating statement, but there can also be great wisdom in it when it is used by an onlooker or as a literary devise, i.e., 'she was meeting herself coming and going' could be said about someone completely unaware of how self-defeating her own behavior is ... yet to the rest of the world it's painfully obvious.


message 3: by booklady (new)

booklady Re: ==Greenleaf==
I didn't "get" the second story

I didn't get MANY of O'Conner's stories ... at least not on the initial read. I've gone back to her and gotten more of them on subsequent tries. Some I confess I just don't care for, but I suspect we aren't supossed to ... or maybe we're supposed to be thoroughly disgusted with the inanity of the characters. It's often difficult as a reader to make the distinction. I rarely get 'attached' to any characters in short stories ... which is another reason I tend not to care for the genre ... or didn't until I encountered O'Connor. For me she is like a box of mixed chocolates ... I can't stop going back for another and another until the box is empty ... even though I don't care for all the pieces I choose.


message 4: by booklady (new)

booklady Karina wrote ... 'why would Mary Fortune deny that her dad beat her, if it was true?'

Because children want to believe the best about their parents or at least to have other people believe the best. To lie about a parent's sin is to protect the parent. My own children have told me about their friend's parents and some of the things they've done/said to them. Later when I've met some of those same children, they brag about their moms and dads. I think it's because they want me to think well of their folks. They see how much I care about my daughters and they want to pretend at least that they have the same thing. Just a thought.


Karina Thank you for the comments, cathy! There's a discussion about this book in another book club I'm part of, and this was the explanation of the phrase:

"meet myself coming and going" - I don't use this phrase, but generally as I've heard it used, it describes being so busy that you imagine you see yourself finishing one task even as you've moved on to the next, as if there were several shadow selves working beside you. Or as the somewhat confused state one is in when trying to complete a number of tasks by a certain time. This isn't what O'Conner means here, though. The mother has paid a bit more for the hat thinking she'll be the only one in town wearing it - as befits someone of her perceived social status; she won't meet herself,(her hat)in another woman "coming and going" (passing by).



message 6: by booklady (new)

booklady Very good! Thank you! Leave it to Flannery to have hidden meanings even in ordinary expressions!


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