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Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  3,291 ratings  ·  366 reviews
Alternate Cover Edition for 9780374508043.

At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime.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, a
Paperback, 237 pages
Published 1970 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1969)
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Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: Mark
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
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
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Flannery O'Connor published two novels and some twenty-five short stories. That was the literary output of her life and yet her work continues to live - which is to say that it continues to be alive in the mind and hearts of those who read her. Mystery and Manners is a collection of lectures that were put together by friends after her death (she died in her thirties from Lupus). There's something about Flannery O'Connor that makes her, in many ways, the writer's writer. There is just so much to ...more
Cindy Rollins
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
4 stars for most people, 5 for writers.

After reading this I don't have to wonder what Flannery would think of modern Christian fiction. This book makes
me feel less guilty about all those times I made fun of the Christian fiction catalogs on my old blog.
The book is the collected writing of Flannery on writing from various sources. I say Flannery because I love her so much
and she is my friend. If you truly want to at least try to probe the idea of the art of fiction this is a must-read. I secret
Lee Klein
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-writers, nf, writing
This collection of essays and lectures goes a long way to explain the thinking behind Flannery O’Connor’s dark realism. A lesser-known gem of writing advice, it is bursting with wisdom--really specific stuff, told in this sort of deadpan sarcastic voice. O’Connor was so opinionated. So astute. It makes for wonderful reading.

Mystery and manners. She defines mystery as the “mystery of our position on earth,” and manners as “those conventions which, in the hands of the artist, reveal that central m
Kate Savage
Sep 07, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Sep 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kerri Anne
I've never seen a collection of nonfiction essays start so beautifully and diminish in readability so steadily. By the end of this collection I'd lost respect for a writer I'd previously been quite fond of, because by the end of the collection she'd been flat-out and pretentiously preaching to me for a solid 150 pages. I really didn't like the way some of these essays were written, but more to the point, I didn't like the way this collection was organized and shared. I'm chocking that up to bein ...more
Mar 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Doug TenNapel
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Flannery O'Connor carries on the tradition of being a great Southern writer. She was prolific, for having such a short life (died in her late 30s). Mystery and Manners is part biography, part life philosophy with a few tips on writing prose along the way. As anyone knows who has read O'Connor, she is a pleasure to read. She's terse, clear and has something interesting to say.

She was a practicing Catholic and writes about how Catholic writers of her day were considered hacks. This was of particul
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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.”
David Withun
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, literature
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you thought you knew anything about writing fiction, turns out tht you don't. If you're obsessed with books being a full version of a statement, then you're wrong. And mostly, if you're obsessed about the American or Catholic novel in ways that hinder the prophetic vision of an author, then you're wrong. You just want sanitized literature, and here's Flannery telling you why. Being serious, this book is very engaging and also deals with the problems of modern education, which, despite having ...more
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Caroline Mann
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This is a 4.5 rating.

Southern, feminine, Christian, and genius. Flannery O’Connor is all of these at once - or, it’s better to say, her writing reveals her as these and never one apart from the other. Not for long, at least.

Few writers are successful outside of one genre and who would expect them to be? I don’t need Jane Austen to write news editorials. I’m fine if Michael Chabon never publishes a collection of poems.

But O’Connor shows here that her nonfiction writing is able to stand up next
Brian Kohl
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
O'Connor is one of those rare writers who can write equally brilliantly as a critic as they can in their genre. Required reading for all Christians who work with words. She attempts to answer vital questions about the nature of religion, the nature of art, and the importance of not compromising when you analyze writing (others or your own). ...more
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is book of essays for Catholic writers from the US South. It didn’t hold much interest for me. The opening essay on raising peacocks was the best part of the book.
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Flannery O'Connor's letters (collected in "The Habit of Being") are essential to understanding her sense of humor, and her strong faith, both of which sustained her during years of physical suffering. "Mystery and Manners," occasional prose collected after her death, are essential to understanding her fiction.

Not to be missed is the introduction she wrote for "A Memoir of Mary Ann," written by the nuns of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Free Cancer Home in Atlanta.
Jen Vanderwey
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adore how she thinks. The grotesque is a pathway, or a window to the sacred and the good.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took my sweet time on this book. Well worth it!
Zack Clemmons
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for the epigrams, witticisms, and Northerner jokes alone. Flannery really is the consummate writer, even given her stringent standards. She's done more to inform my judgment of good writing, especially fiction, more than anyone else, and I'm grateful. This collection is really well-edited, where O'Connor's fundamental ideas and her go-to phrasings are highlighted and repeated in close proximity, but don't become repetitive. You're really able to get into the essence of her thought. ...more
May 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
So much great advice in these essays, and O'Connor is so quotable. Much easier to quote than to emulate. On this reading I took the time to read the four essays—which I'd previously skipped—relating to the writer and religion and was surprised to find embedded in there some otherwise sound advice that even a non-catholic writer could put to use. For the most part, though, those four essays seemed to be aimed at critics of her religious bent, or at writers such as Sartre and Camus, as in this bit ...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
Elizabeth Browne
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flan starts off telling her readers about raising peacocks as a girl and her sense of truly practical wonder is still easily accessible in later in life college lectures. She isn’t a very easy or normal writer and neither are her short stories (read: The Bible Salesman) but she was a brilliant woman and she knew she was gifted, with peacocks and with words, and in this careful book she shares some how-to some what-not-to-do and all matter of factly prose about if you have the gift you know and i ...more
This is mixture of essays and typescripts for lectures produced in the 1960s. Flannery O'Connor has always been an enigma to me, and these writings give depth to lot of her literary idiosyncrasies. In particular, the grotesque and peculiar traits of many of her characters. O'Connor has an enormous fascination with the poor but not in an exploitative sense. The mystery of survival brings out those supreme personalities, and writers should take heed, instead of using plot to characterize. O'Connor ...more
Sherry Elmer
Although this is a book mostly about writing and literature, the first essay is about peafowl. Since my 10 year old is hoping to buy some peacocks, I read the essay to him. The next time he saw me reading this book, he said, "Hey! Don't read that without me!" Once I explained that the rest of the book was about writing, he was content to let me have it to myself.

I love this book. This is my third time reading it, and, Lord willing, it won't be my last. If you are at all interested in writing, r
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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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