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Collected Works: Wise Blood / A Good Man Is Hard to Find / The Violent Bear It Away / Everything That Rises Must Converge / Essays and Letters

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In her short lifetime, Flannery O'Connor became one of the most distinctive American writers of the twentieth century. By birth a native of Georgia and a Roman Catholic, O'Connor depicts, in all its comic and horrendous incongruity, the limits of worldly wisdom and the mysteries of divine grace in the "Christ-haunted" Protestant South. This Library of America collection, the most comprehensive ever published, contains all of her novels and short-story collections, as well as nine other stories, eight of her most important essays, and a selection of 259 witty, spirited, and revealing letters, twenty-one published here for the first time.

Her fiction brilliantly explores the human obsession with seemingly banal things. It might be a new hat or clean hogs or, for Hazel Motes, hero of Wise Blood (1952), an automobile. "Nobody with a good car needs to be justified," Hazel assures himself while using its hood for a pulpit to preach his "Church Without Christ." As in O'Connor's subsequent work, the characters in this novel are driven to violence, even murder, and their strong vernacular endows them with the discomforting reality of next-door neighbors. "In order to recognize a freak," she remarks in one of her essays, "you have to have a conception of the whole man."

In the title story of her first, dazzling collection of stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955), the old grandmother discovers the comic irrelevance of good manners when she and her family meet up with the sinister Misfit, who claims there is "no pleasure but meanness." The terror of urban dislocation in "The Artificial Nigger," the bizarre baptism in "The River," or one-legged Hulga Hopewell's encounter with a Bible salesman in "Good Country People"--these startling events give readers the uneasy sense of mysteries about to be revealed.

Her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away (1960), casts the shadow of the Old Testament across a landscape of backwoods shacks, modern towns, and empty highways. Caught between the prophetic fury of his great-uncle and the unrelenting rationalism of his uncle, fourteen-year-old Francis Tarwater undergoes a terrifying trial of faith when he is commanded to baptize his idiot cousin.

The nine stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) show O'Connor's powers at their height. The title story is a terrifying, heart-rending drama of familial and racial misunderstanding. "Revelation" and "The Enduring Chill" probe further into conflicts between parental figures and recalcitrant offspring, where as much tension is generated from quiet conversation as from the physical violence of gangsters and fanatics.

1281 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1988

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About the author

Flannery O'Connor

178 books4,551 followers
Critics note novels Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960) and short stories, collected in such works as A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955), of American writer Mary Flannery O'Connor for their explorations of religious faith and a spare literary style.

The Georgia state college for women educated O’Connor, who then studied writing at the Iowa writers' workshop and wrote much of Wise Blood at the colony of artists at Yaddo in upstate New York. She lived most of her adult life on Andalusia, ancestral farm of her family outside Milledgeville, Georgia.

O’Connor wrote Everything That Rises Must Converge (1964). When she died at the age of 39 years, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers.

Survivors published her essays were published in Mystery and Manners (1969). Her Complete Stories , published posthumously in 1972, won the national book award for that year. Survivors published her letters in The Habit of Being (1979). In 1988, the Library of America published Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor, the first so honored postwar writer.

People in an online poll in 2009 voted her Complete Stories as the best book to win the national book award in the six-decade history of the contest.

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5 stars
2,126 (64%)
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833 (25%)
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234 (7%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 206 reviews
Author 9 books180 followers
January 23, 2013
Sometimes you devour a book. Sometimes a book devours you.

I chose this book, from my local library, for several reasons. 1) Flannery O'Connor is thought to have been one of the most respected writers of faith in recent history. 2) I need to read quality books to feed my brain if I'm going to call myself a writer. 3) My personal goal is to read fifty books in 2013 and 4) I chose this and got a hundred pages into it -- which I consider pretty committed -- before I realized that this volume was over 1000 pages long.

Until I picked up this book, the only thing I had read of hers was A Good Man Is Hard To Find and after reading it, I was so emotionally bewildered, I wasn't sure I wanted to read anything else by O'Connor again.

But for the sake of art, I decided to try again. This was before, of course, I realized this volume was so long.

It took me about 600 pages to finally realize that I need to buy this book. I NEED TO BUY THIS BOOK AND HIGHLIGHT THE HECK OUT OF IT. O'Connor's novels and short stories have a common element of Southern backwoods faith coming against the expectations of mid-century culture, Southern gentility and various forms of post-modern enlightenment. Her characters, especially the eaters of fat back and habitual church goers who speak more than they think, could have come right out of my childhood. The smug sons and daughters who return home (or who have never left) and argue with their parents over higher thought and reason and what they learned in college could have been me between the ages of fifteen and twenty-seven. The underlying themes of salvation and justice and redemption are all themes that I love and that I would hope to be able to communicate in my stories as well as she does. I am convinced that in the culture war we are now fighting in our churches and on the local news, Flannery O'Connor is still very relevant and I am not only going to make my children read her when they are old enough, but they are also going to savor her work, not just for the artistry (oh my, there is so much artistry!) but also for the hard questions it asks and the willingness to conclude that the answers are not easy.

If that weren't enough, at the back of this volume are 400 pages of her letters to friends and colleagues. Her humor and faith comes through in such grace -- in an entirely different way than it does in her stories -- and I want to invite her over for lunch and talk to her about her peacocks, her health and why she hates talking about writing. Maybe i"m a little star struck, but I think O'Connor would have made a great mentor or big sister.

Here are some of my favorites lines of hers from her letters:

"I am mighty tired of reading reviews that call "A Good Man" brutal and sarcastic. The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian sentimentalism."

"My audience are the people who think God is dead. At least these are the people I am conscious of writing for."

"There is a question whether faith can or is supposed to be emotionally satisfying. I must say that the thought of everyone lolling about in an emotionally satisfying faith is repugnant to me. I believe we are ultimately directed Godward but that this journey is often impeded by emotion."

"You ask God to let you see straight and write straight. I read somewhere that the more you asked God, the more impossible what you asked, the greater glory you were giving Him. This is something I don't fail to practice, although not without the right motives."

"When you write a novel, if you have been honest about it and if your conscience is clear, the it seems to me that you have to leave the rest in God's hands. When the book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry about this is to take over God's business."

"Fiction is supposed to represent life, and the fiction writer has to use as many aspects of life as are necessary to make his total picture convincing. THe fiction writer doesn't state, he shows, renders. It's the nature of fiction and it can't be helped. If you're writing about the vulgar, you have to prove that they're vulgar by showing them at it. The two worst sins of bad taste in ficton are p**nography and sentimentality. One is too much s*x and the other too much sentiment. You have to have enough of either to prove your point but no more. Of course there are some fiction writers who feel they have to retire to the bathroom or the bed with every character every time he takes himself to either place. Unless such a trip is used to further the story, I feel it is in bad taste."

This was only at the halfway point. I'm sure I could collect more and more passages that I loved, not only from her letters but from all the stories and essays that were in this volume. I loved this volume so much, I came up with three or four research papers I would write on her if I were taking a college course. Fortunately for you, I won't use my review space for such things.

This post is pretty much a Flannery O'Connor gush fest. It's been said that we write what we read. I'd be happy to have my writing reflect more of her wit, her honesty and her faith anytime. Hey Goodreads! You should have more than five stars. Flannery O'Connor gets ten.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
920 reviews976 followers
December 12, 2018
I would not dispute her talent, but I found her style a little overwrought for my taste, and her particular brand of Christianity rather unpleasant (not least, for example, her view on lesbianism as a disgusting sin or, actually, her obsession with sin and grace in general). I know some people like to read her as "ironic", but it is obvious where her sympathies lie.

I found she worked better in the short story form than the novel, particularly when there was enough ambiguity for the reader to read against her.

Knocked up to 4 stars from 3 due to "A good man is hard to find", which is one of the best short stories I have read.
Profile Image for Callie.
671 reviews23 followers
July 25, 2010
I finished Wise Blood, and I'm now reading some of her letters...For Wise Blood, it's the kind of book you admire, but it requires work and thought and wasn't pure pleasure for me. What I like about it is that it is trying to say something, something big, something existential. Haze Motes character is not as someone else pointed out to O'Connor himself believable as a full human being. She agreed with that. I agree with that too. But it seems to me this book is more of an allegory--you know as you are reading it that these are symbols, even the people are types. Most of people in the novel are not concerned with their souls, but just about making money or mundane issues. A lot of them are out to con people and have only their own interest at heart. Motes and Enoch are different, though. Motes is obsessed with religion and is trying to escape God and Jesus, even as he knows he has been redeemed and they already have a hold on him. Enoch, I thought, at first was just obsessive-compulsive. But upon further reflection and as I read some of O'Connor's commentary on the novel, I realized that he is that rare person who knows how to listen to his inner voice and obeys it. When he shows the shriveled museum man to Motes, he is showing Motes what Man would be without redemption. I am in awe of all the depth here and this is the kind of book that if you read it along with someone else, you could have endless hours of enlightening conversation. I guess that's why it's so well regarded. It pricks at you and makes you want to think about those big questions. I also admire O'Connor so much in that she was both devoted to her religion AND her art. Very difficult in this age of unbelieving. She didn't sacrifice her artistic vision and she wasn't afraid to unsettle devoted Catholics, but she didn't ever shy away from her religion in order to satisfy the intellectual crowd who are usually atheist or at least agnostic. That's why her letters and essays are very educational for a person who has faith and wants to write. She shows it can be done and done well.

I have now read all the letters and most of the essays and I have to add a few quotes I loved. I can't believe her letters were as interesting as they were as I have tried many times to read letters/journals of literary people and usually find them awfully boring. Not hers. Particularly, the ones to A. These were fabulous. I wonder who A. was?

"ONe of the awful things about writing when you are a Christian is that for you the ultimate reality is the INcarnation, the present reality is the INcarnation, the whole reality is the Incarnation, and nobody believes in the INcarnation; that is, nobody in your audience. My audience are the people who think God is dead. At least these are the people I am conscious of writing for."
Profile Image for Jordan.
355 reviews2 followers
July 13, 2013
Flannery O'Connor is the master of Southern Gothic.

Her tales are full of sociopathic actions and skewed niceties, and will drag you into the darkest corners of the South with a thousand unanswered questions: What drives a man to create the Church without Christ? Why kill an entire family in cold blood? Why steal a lonely girl's wooden leg? The depths of human horror are explored in O'Connor's eloquent and visceral language; she will startle the shit out of you, and your grandmother.

Oh, and there are some letters in this volume. I skipped those, but they're probably amazing.

Buy this title from Powell's Books.
Profile Image for Gonzo.
55 reviews101 followers
August 27, 2015
I came back to Flannery O'Connor's work (this book) after reading a blog post about the role of Christianity in her work. My first reaction to this was, "Flannery O'Connor was Catholic?"--something akin to Homer Simpson's exclamation "Mel Brooks Is Jewish?" In my defense, I first encountered Flannery O'Connor in high school in "Greenleaf," one of the less overtly religious of her stories (Pop quiz: Will the dreaded "n-word" or "Christ" be the first to be completely scrubbed out of our literature?). Flannery O'Connor is a Christian writer, but then again many writers are labeled (accused of?) being Christian. What does this really mean? Flannery O'Connor's brand of Christian fiction is weird. Weirder than any labels applied to her ("Southern gothic," etc.) can really capture, so it's worth thinking about for a while.

First, the volume. The best endorsement of it is that it deserves to exist. How many American authors actually have bodies of work worth reading in full? How many American authors' letters are really worth reading? Nary any. But Flannery O'Connor's work actually deserves to be read as a whole. She was interesting enough, and a great enough artist, for her opinions on life and literature to matter; even her weak work informs us on the strength of her strong work.

Neither of her novels are all that good. Wise Blood is so demented and weird that it's hard not to like it on some level, but overall it never rises above the status of being a bunch of sick scenes intertwined. The Violent Bear it Away is better as a novel (though probably less interesting), though it suffers from the same problems as its predecessor, which is to say, it lacks anything greater to unite the characters and scenes into a larger work. There are many ways in which an author can unite scenes together: For example, characters can develop in a way which allows them to live to live outside the scenes in which they appear; or the the author's composition itself can unite the work as an aesthetic whole. On the matter of character development, never in O'Connor's work is there a character who lives outside his or her assigned role. Her players are driven by certain motivations which provide a center of their entire existences. Very few develop even in a Pavlovian fashion, let alone a Shakespearean one.

The second novel is closer, thematically, at uniting the work as a whole. Unlike the scenes in Wise Blood which are connected only in their perversity, the scenes in Bear it Away operate much better as a thematic whole. Where the first novel was a collection of strange tales, the second tells an overarching story focused upon three characters.
Of course, what O'Connor gains in thematic consistency she loses in one of her greatest strengths, which is her weirdness. Thus, Bear it Away suffers from being drab.

That leaves us with the stories, which are as good as any written by an American. The stories are the archetypes of a certain mode of short story writing which relies on sudden epiphanies to deliver drama. These often-fatal, mostly ironic epiphanies substitute for the kind of character development we as readers would demand from a novel--the characters in the story are given a comeuppance in the final scene, and forced to confront some aspect of reality they had been able to avoid up until that comeuppance. In this, the reader experiences the kind of psychological angst an author would regularly express through expatiation. Nick Adams's views on death are discovered by the ironic contrast of "The Killers;" Gabriel's views on the same are discovered by late revelation in "The Dead." It can also start to feel like a gimmick--spend 90% creating a character who believes and acts on one belief, crush that belief in the final 10%, and leave the reader in the ironic, ambivalent lurch of modernism.

O'Connor is the master of the ironic comeuppance. It can tend to become predictable; at the worst, it's like a limerick, whose meter overrules the matter; at best, it's like a sonnet, whose meter is imbibed along with the weight of the content. O'Connor mostly achieves the latter, especially in Everything That Rises, which is superior to A Good Man is Hard to Find. Pound for pound, page for page, word for word, O'Connor just does it better. It would nice if short story writers would let enough alone, as far as the epiphany style goes, and let O'Connor rest as queen of the form.

But how does this make her a Christian writer? When I think of Christian writer, I think of Dickens, whose every character exuded love for his fellow man that couldn't be topped in Heaven; Milton, of course lauded Christ. Even George Eliot knew of Christianity's virtues and expressed them better than O'Connor. To be honest, the title of Christian writer as applied to O'Connor is deceiving. O'Connor was certainly a Christian--a devout Catholic--but her stories and characters are out of the Old Testament. It is only through the epiphany mode of storytelling that we realize what her characters are lacking--they lack divine grace, as can only be imparted through Jesus Christ. Her stories are intimately connected, thematically, with her views on and relationship to Christianity.

I would put it like this: O'Connor's South, far from being "Gothic" (whatever that means) is best compared to the world and people of the Book of Genesis. Violence is rampant, and blood cries out from the ground. Like the race of giants that shared land with men, the races of the South live in alienation from one another. The old-timers in O'Connor's stories all have something antebellum in them, making them somewhat akin to Methuselah. Most importantly, they lack a sense of rightness and goodness beyond the particular (often perverted) moral codes which drive their existences. Jacob steals his brother's birthright; Ham defiles his father Noah; the brothers of Dinah commit mass murder to avenge her rape. All these acts form important parts of the development of the history of the Israelites, but it's hard for any civilized person to read about them and not feel unclean. For me, at least, I felt a similar feeling of uncleanliness in reading about the Bible salesman stealing a leg, or a shyster leaving an idiot girl at a bar alone. As the pre-Mosaic peoples lacked a Decalogue, O'Connor's characters lack moral scruples in a way that makes their sins seem almost forgivable, yet no less repellent.

Many of O'Connor's characters are certainly religious, but they are religious in the most heathen way. The main character in "The Lame Shall Enter First" is knowledgeable of Christ's teachings, but possesses no praxis for applying these teachings to his life. The wife in "Parker's Back" can perform every function of Christianity except the one which matters--to love. Southern society is full of Elmer Gantries, such as in "The River." Sometimes this personal religion is enough--Mrs. Greenleaf's fervent religiosity pays off for her, and the Greenleaf family as a whole actually gets close as any O'Connor character to some kind of redemption. But for the most part, we see in these characters something close to moral chaos and nihilism--in both the extreme believers and atheists which populate O'Connor's work.

On one level, this is a searing indictment of Southern Protestantism; in the land of TJ Jakes and Joel Osteen, such condemnation of the never-ending stream of Elmer Gantries coming forth must be never-ending.Even as the Israelites form a great society, they are too weak to avoid false gods and idolatry. But to chalk this up to a Evangelical vs. Catholic (or similar organized churches) is too simple. O'Connor's characters lack grace. In a sense, the lack of inwardness I noted above is a symptom of this. O'Connor's characters possess judgment and morality; what they lack is love for one another (especially O'Connor's monstrous intellectuals), and love for their Creator, which can compel them to act beyond their particular codes and actually achieve right action. It's telling that the Catholics who populate O'Connor's work are usually better-acclimated to the world than their non-Catholic counterparts; the application of their most-unworldly beliefs to the world generally works. This is O'Connor's greatest compliment to the faith.

Perhaps inwardness is a property of the Godhead. O'Connor's characters are all so trapped within their singular compulsions that the reader wishes some kind of self-reflection and growth were possible if only to let them escape from the prisons which are O'Connor's stories. Hell is not other people, but it is the inability to love other people and things, a quality which almost all of O'Connor's characters possess to some extent. How can we love without reflection? How can we find joy in the outer world when we cannot contemplate and fall in love with the visions inside us? In this way, the Shakespearean idea of character--the great souls in chains idea from Chesterton--really takes meaning. Our own egos and personalities arise from the Divine Itself in our attempts to love more fully.

Beyond the theological, other aspects of O'Connor's work are compelling. Though O'Connor, as a Southern author, is of course described as a writer about "race" (who isn't?!), it's hard not to notice that O'Connor's view on race relations is decidedly un-progressive. Faulkner's Negroes are the protectors of an older, simpler, more humane life; Eudora Welty's are victims of near-Nazi-like savagery. O'Connor's are diffident, difficult, and often violent. The last scene in all her completed fiction is of an innocent old man being murdered by a black man riding the ascendance of the Civil Rights movement; there's no way to characterize this in a way that makes the movement or its disciples look good. Interesting, also, is O'Connor's letter disputing whether MLK was as saintlike as he appeared, and noting James Baldwin's insufferability (1208)--funny that MLK would be recognized as having died for our sins with Baldwin as his gospelist, while mention of Christ is further purged from public discourse. Taken together, it's clear that O'Connor held a shaky Old South mentality with regards to race relations. It's somewhat sad that O'Connor died young in 1964. But then again, when it comes to her critical reputation, it may have been a godsend to die before Watts; the modern Church Without Christ is more exacting than Hazel Motes when it comes to punishing its heretics.
Profile Image for Elle.
89 reviews
August 19, 2009
I'm "taking" the Yale Open Course in The American Novel Since 1945 (http://oyc.yale.edu/english/american-...), and "Wise Blood" is one of the readings. It tells of Hazel Motes, a young man from Tennessee recently returned to the South after several years of fighting overseas. His grandfather was a preacher, and people keep believing he is one. When he does preach, it's outside of movie theaters, and is for the Church Without Christ.

My favorite part is when a man named Holy tries to join him and make it the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ.
"'Now I want to give you folks a few reasons why you can trust this church,' he said. ... 'You don't have to believe nothing you don't understand and approve of. If you don't understand it, it ain't true, and that's all there is to it. ...I want to tell you a second reason why you can absolutely trust this church--it's based on the Bible. Yes sir! It's based on your own personal interpitation of the Bible, friends. You can sit at home and interpit your own Bible however you feel in your heart it ought to be interpited. That's right, ' he said, 'just the way Jesus would have done it. ... That ought to be enough reasons, friends,' Ornie Jay Holy said, 'but I'm going to tell you one more, just to show I can. This church is up-to-date! When you're in this church you can know that there's nothing or nobody ahead of you, nobody knows nothing you don't know, all the cards are on the table, friends, and that's a fack!'"

The story also suggests that might be a different way to keep Sabbath, but you'll have to read it to discover that for yourself.

The story reminds me a little of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory and The End of the Affair in its suggestion of a kind of sainthood or Christ-likeness in the most unlikely person/people. Yet Greene had nothing on O'Connor when it came to a truly dark and twisted vision of humanity. I don't seem to read her stories, but be seared by them. It will take me much longer to digest this one, but on the surface now, after having just finished it, and seeing "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" follows, I admit that this story was not as powerful to me as "A Good Man." This story I may eventually recover from; that, never. And I can't even see the title without remembering what the professor who introduced me to "A Good Man" would quote of O'Connor on her own work--that "for the almost deaf, you shout, and for the almost blind, you draw large and startling pictures."

I gave the story two stars based on how much I enjoyed it, not on how good it is. My enjoyment is not the most important measure, just the only one you can't know unless I share it.
Profile Image for Walter.
116 reviews
May 8, 2009
This certainly was a load of a book. I don’t have a problem with the writing which is pretty good or the content of the stories. But I don’t think any of her writing is insightful or intelligent. She knows how to hide her lack of insight. That’s a talent, I guess.

Her style reminds me of that family member prone to box wine who has mastered the way to tell a story without ever having experienced life for himself; slow and meandering in their rendering of the story that usually sounds interesting the first couple of times you hear them talk but after a couple years you realize they have nothing to say.
They’ve seen nothing. Felt nothing.

The pose questions like, “Well, you wouldn’t believe what happened today.”


“At work…”


“Just before the dawn…”

“What happened?”

“…wouldn’t you like to know…”

“Tell me.”

“I don’t know if you’re ready.”

“I am, ready.”

“Can I trust you?”


“Or can anyone be trusted.”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes…No One Does!” They pause. “Can you get me some more red wine?”

“Sure.” Hand them a glass.

“Well, he walked up to me, grizzled like.”


“He had a funny way-uh-talking. Like he’d seen too much.”

“What did he see?”

Long gulp of wine. “Things Man Shouldn’t See.”

“Like what?”

“Time will tell.”

“Can you tell me now?”

“I wish I could, I wish I could.”

And so on. Nothing is said. There is lots of subtext in the above dialogue. So what? And the wine was red so I suppose you could say it’s Christ’s Blood. But so what? It’s still a dumb conversation. Like her writing.
Profile Image for Christine Christman.
Author 2 books1 follower
September 15, 2012

When I began reading this book O didn't know if I was going to make it through. But eventually I got tot the point where I was picking it up every free minute I had. Why. I think it was because I began to get to know her characters. You know how when you first meet people it is easy to make all of these judgments about them...that defensive posture...but then when you get to know them the judgments fall away because you get to see what is behind the behaviors or attitudes being judged? That's how I experienced her stories. At first...agh! This is horrifying...people dismembering their faces, getting murdered because of a random wrong turn, stealing a wooden leg, drowning a disabled child. But she draws the characters so objectively that I began to get more and more curious about how they would work out the details of their lives which were so different from my own. Would I want to know these people in my life? Probably not. But human choices and motives are always interesting to me and oConnor paints her characters in such a way that you can feel the disturbance bubbling to the surface but you never know how it's going to play out. A tension building that I found captivating.

Mostly, however, I enjoyed her essays on literature, writing, Catholicism, and the grotesque. After seeing the intelligent thought behind her writing I appreciate what Oconnor was about and her own self-consciousness about it.
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 24 books5 followers
February 21, 2013
Volumes like this are the glory of the Library of America. All the Flannery O'Connor you need in one well edited, perfectly sized edition. And you do need to read Flannery O'Connor. As a devout Catholic living in the gaudy sectarian carnival of the Protestant South, O'Connor had a unique perspective on religion and its unpredictable power. Though I will always be fond of Wise Blood and Hazel Motes ("I preach the Church Without Christ where the blind don't see, the lame don't walk, and what's dead stays that way.") I think the real greatness is in the short stories. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is an acknowledged classic, but I often return to "The River," in which a neglected boy's baptism leads to a catastrophic accident, or the doctor's office from hell in "Revelation." O'Connor is one of the greats, and this volume is a great way to study her work.
Profile Image for Curt Jarrell.
19 reviews14 followers
March 23, 2014
One of the 2oth Century's most influential and fiercely original talents, O'Connor is not to be dismissed lightly. Her sharp wit and even sharper prose is on display in this collection of her work. It's a pity she was taken from us at such a young age of only 39. I prefer her shorter works, including her essays and letters and her short fiction, my favorite being "Good Country People," about a shady salesman looking to pick up something extra at a sales call in a rural area, and it isn't what you think.
Profile Image for Mommalibrarian.
741 reviews46 followers
September 25, 2011
Flannery O'Connor is a shock-jock. She writes powerful, twisted, decadent stories about warped, exaggerated, monstrous people committing extreme actions. Although the stories are set in the south I am sure freaks can be found in every part of the world.
Profile Image for Alicia.
53 reviews
July 21, 2020
I loved Wise Blood! The essays are wonderful. This book is my favorite gift to myself.
Profile Image for Kelly.
10 reviews6 followers
July 26, 2012
I'm going to have to buy this book -- I was reading a library copy and had to give it back before I finished.
Profile Image for Olav Nilsen.
81 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2014
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it”
Profile Image for James Violand.
1,232 reviews62 followers
July 24, 2019
Wise Blood
An imbecilic degenerate with a religious chip on his shoulder, attempts to build a new church of no Jesus, meets other irredeemable characters in a small Southern city and dies. Not a story worth its ink.
A Good Man Is Hard To Find
You’re in a restaurant. Your ordered food arrives. Your first bite tells you something is wrong. You take a second and your nerve reflex is to vomit. Do you continue to eat? Hell no. This author sucks. I don’t know what rock she crept out from under, nor do I have any idea why she has been promoted as a good writer. The first three shorts concern an escaped convict murdering an unfortunate family of two small children, a grandmother and husband and wife; the second is about an unwanted eight-year-old boy who is abused and drowns in a river and; the third describes how a one-armed vagrant defrauds an impoverished widow and her deaf 30-year-old daughter. What is the point of writing this diarrhea? It elevates no one, nor does it entertain. Rather, it presents a hopeless alienation of the soul. So why read it? Why continue reading The Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor? I have no doubt that, in a few decades, the average reader will reject her works and those of the other current favorable modernist writers as complete garbage and a mere fraud perpetrated by elite sycophants of prestigious writers who hate humanity.
115 reviews
May 1, 2023
This is pretty much the essence of FOC all between the covers of a 1200 page book that you can buy for under $20 online. Read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” first - to appreciate the flavor of her writing. Then google her bio - and read her other stuff in the order written to see how she developed over her too short career (she died at 39). Be sure to read her essays and also a sampling of her letters - which contain many clues to her attitude about her post WWII Georgia world, and her Catholic faith.

Reading FOC to my mind is a great way to become a more attentive reader (read her stories at least twice and always with a pencil) and maybe also to grow as a fiction writer, too, if that’s your leaning.

Her work is not just hokey, it’s also very funny and very, very good.
Profile Image for Dave N.
256 reviews6 followers
May 8, 2020
Previously, I'd only read her first novel, Wise Blood, and I'd given it a somewhat poor rating. I take it back. I think I've come to appreciate that first novel much more now that I've read more about O'Conner and her thoughts on Southern writing and its role in portraying the "freaks" in society. That said, I really think her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, is really her stand-out work. Don't get me wrong, her short stories are fantastic at times, but I really think she shines in that second novel. Tarwater is such a great character and his uncle makes such a great foil. I'll admit that the pattern of the novel is a bit formulaic (you could match it to a number of works by other writers), but I don't think that takes away from the writing itself, which is superb.

Of her short stories, I found myself drawn more by the quieter ones that her more famous works like "A Good Man Is Hard to Find". The stories that take place on small farms, with people just trying to get by ("Greenleaf" is a good example) but dealing with little issues felt more real. That said, my favorite was probably "A View of the Woods", maybe because it reminded me of The Violent Bear It Away in its themes.

I skipped reading her complete letters, though I'd like to go back and finish them eventually. She wrote beautifully, and had a sort of Churchillian way of always having a memorable line or two stored for just the right moment.
Profile Image for Arthur.
2 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2021
In my 27-year tenure as an English professor at Georgia College in Milledgeville, I taught the stories of Flannery O'Connor (alumna of the college and resident of the town) more times than I count. To avoid looking like a bumpkin at the O'Connor conference in Savannah last month, I thought I should re-read the works I had read and taught and read the works I had not read before. I had an engaging six weeks. O'Connor's prose in her fiction is often dense and complicated; speed reading is not advised. Her use of the epiphany as a plot device is brilliant. She skillfully manipulates fundamentalist language to illustrate very Catholic notions of grace. The comedy in her stories inevitably leads to the humiliation and subsequent glorification of characters with superficial faith or no faith at all. My favorite stories are my old favorites Wise Blood, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "Good Country People," and "Revelation"--and a new favorite "The Partridge Festival." O'Connor did not have social media to entertain her, but she was a prolific letter writer. The letters are a delight. Their subjects range from chatty gossip to serious theology. Her essays are insightful and worth re-reading.
Profile Image for Bobby Lehew.
6 reviews5 followers
September 17, 2007
I have so little time for thoughtful review; instead, I opt for a series of favorite passages from each book; (my apologies to authors everywhere for confounding intent by taking these out of context!) -

"There is another reason in the Southern situation that makes for a tendency toward the grotesque and this is the prevalence of good Southern writers. I think the writer is initially set going by literature more than by life. When there are many writers all employing the sale idiom, all looking out on more or less the same social scene, the individual writer will have to be more than ever careful that he isn't just doing badly what has already been done to completion. The presence alone of Faulkner in our midst makes a great difference in what the writer can and cannot permit himself to do. Nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same track the Dixie Limited is roaring down." - from "The Grotesque in Southern Fiction"
Profile Image for Paul Jellinek.
545 reviews15 followers
April 28, 2019
This is my second reading of this extraordinary volume of the writings of one of America's greatest writers--and the first time that I read all the remarkable letters that comprise the final third of the book--but it won't be my last. There is so much depth to these novels and stories, and so much wisdom and humor in the letters--some of which shed invaluable light on the novels and stories--that I will undoubtedly return to them again and again. As her letters reveal, none of these novels or stories came easy to O'Connor; she had to dig deep into her unconscious for the profound truths that animate each one of them. That is what makes them both so challenging to read and ultimately so rewarding.
Profile Image for James Henderson.
2,044 reviews166 followers
February 26, 2021
The writing style of Flannery O'Connor awakens the reader with its felicity. Miss O'Connor imagination takes over from there and the ride is a wild one. Wise Blood, the first work in this collection, is a nightmarish take on the world of southern itenerant preachers. Hazel Motes' Church without Christ is a bleakly humorous approach to the whole god/man situation and Motes own psychology is worth studying through rereadings of this short work. The collections of short fiction underscore the ability of O'Connor to surprise and challenge the reader. I find myself returning to her work from time to time just to make sure that my previous readings were not a dream.
3 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2008
This is the ultimate collection of works (I love the letters, too) from the most captivating female writer in American history. If you don't appreciate her work, you're not reading deep enough. Flannery's writing is so thick with subtext, so much symbolism, yet so oddly relatable, it's amazing that a white woman of the south could create such characters, such realism and do so with such mastery...and at such a young age. Her untimely death at age 39 cut short the potential for more greatness and added to the mystery of the persona of Flannery. Female or male, amongst all the writers of all time, Miss O'Connor is one of the greats.
Profile Image for Lorna.
1,322 reviews17 followers
October 3, 2008
I am fascinated by the writings of Flannery O'Connor. She exaggerates people's not so good charaters traits to make a point concerning issues such a racism, selfishness, intolerance, etc. Her stories are full of irony and often have shocking endings. We visited her home in Milledgeville, Georgia where she lived and wrote for many years. This was interesting to me as my son-in-law, Ben is from Milledgeville.
12 reviews
August 22, 2009
I only read The Violent Bear It Away, but the website wants me to use this "collected" edition to put this on my shelf.

This is pretty obviously a Novel of Ideas, but the story drew me along nonetheless. I think I might decide I liked it better the more I think about it, so perhaps I'll amend this review in the future. For now, I'd recommend it as a relatively easy read, for a Novel of Ideas...
Profile Image for pearl.
309 reviews27 followers
July 22, 2010
I like Southern writers. Don't really know why. Maybe I just gravitate toward dialects, oppression, freakish humor, madness, and deeply (but beautifully) flawed people. Shall Flannery O'Connor be the answer I've been waiting for, to Faulkner and McCullers?

Anyway I'm two short stories and one novel in (A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Everything that Rises Must Converge, Wise Blood) and yes, I do think I've taken a shining to this Flannery woman.

Awesome. Full review(s) later!
1 review
March 6, 2010
It would help if you read "Mystery and Manners" if you are having trouble understanding Flannery O'Connors works...She explains her art very well in this collection of notes from her speeches, essays and/or talks that she gave.
Profile Image for Arwen Downs.
65 reviews5 followers
April 13, 2010
I will not explain Flannery O'Connor. You must read Flannery O'Connor, because your life will be better.

(Even the letters are worth reading, and you cannot say that about everyone whose letters are published.)
Profile Image for Kevin Ryan.
Author 2 books28 followers
October 6, 2012
She was one of the most gifted writers in America. She combines a gothic Southern sensibility with a fascination for human failure and the mystical. She brings you to places and outcomes you don't expect but seem completely perfect once you are there.
Profile Image for Martin Bihl.
519 reviews12 followers
September 28, 2019
Wise Blood - finished 05.17.14

A Good Man is Hard to Find - finished 03.02.15

The Violent Bear It Away - finished 02.25.16

Everything That Rises Must Converge - finished 03.17.17

Stories and Occasional Prose - finished 04.13.18

Letters - finished 09.27.19
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