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Group Reads: Pre-1990 > The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor: Initial Impressions, March, 2016

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message 1: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Welcome to The Complete Stories. Here's the place to begin our discussion.


Franky | 327 comments Flannery O'Conner's stories are a gem to read. I'm in for this read once I finish a few of the reads I'm doing now. I'm looking to take on some of her lesser known short story titles. My favorites are "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", "A Good Man is Hard to Find", "The Displaced Person", "Late Encounter with the Enemy", and "Good Country People."


message 3: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Franky wrote: "Flannery O'Conner's stories are a gem to read. I'm in for this read once I finish a few of the reads I'm doing now. I'm looking to take on some of her lesser known short story titles. My favorites ..."

It's nice to have you along, Franky. I figured I would see you for O'Connor!


message 4: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (last edited Feb 28, 2016 07:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
For those joining the read of The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor , here's something you might enjoy as you read along. "How to Tell You're in a Flannery O'Connor Short Story"http://the-toast.net/2016/02/25/how-t... .


message 5: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 4115 comments Mod
Excellent, Mike, and really funny. I've read these stories before, but will join in the conversation. I'm in a lot of these stories, it's like O'Connor knew me personally, or members of my family.
But I most identify with the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find". That's my favorite story, by the way.


Jane | 753 comments Are we reading them all lol?


message 7: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Jane wrote: "Are we reading them all lol?"

Ahem. I dare you to stop, Laughing .


message 8: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Excellent, Mike, and really funny. I've read these stories before, but will join in the conversation. I'm in a lot of these stories, it's like O'Connor knew me personally, or members of my family. ..."

Thanks, Diane. Glad you enjoyed this. We share the same favorite story, look for additional extras from me on thid read, I have gems in store, :)


message 9: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Here's a special treat. Flannery O'Connor reads A Good Man is Hard to Find, 1959. From YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sQT7y4L... . Who better to read it, but Ms. O'Connor. Please enjoy.


message 10: by Jane (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane | 753 comments This is wonderful Mike thank you for the link


message 11: by Doug H (new)

Doug H I'm very excited to jump into this. My favorite of all of her short stories (thus far - there are 12 stories in this collection that are new to me) is "The Displaced Person". That one feels more like a novella than a short story to me. I also love "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and have a special fondness for "Good Country People". (I chose that last one to write an adaptation for a playwriting course in college.)


message 12: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Ever one to kill two mockingbirds with one stone I am participating in two different group discussions this month, this one and another of A Good Man Is Hard to Find And Other Stories. I whipped through those ten stories in short order and have now gone back and am picking them apart. 'And that', as someone other than Flannery O'Connor once said, 'has made all the difference.'


message 13: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (last edited Mar 01, 2016 05:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Lawyer wrote: "For those joining the read of The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor, here's something you might enjoy as you read along. "How to Tell You're in a Flannery O'Connor Short Story"http://the-toast...."

Shucks! I was looking forward to sharing this one. Oh well, I'll have to settle for sharing this lovely collection of Flannery's quotes, including my personal favorite,
"I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both."

http://www.notable-quotes.com/o/oconn...


message 14: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 4115 comments Mod
I love those quotes, Tom. I borrowed the Library of America O'Connor collection, which includes a lot of her correspondence. What a funny and sarcastic person she was. One of the few authors that I wish I knew personally. There's one letter where she says she doesn't understand why people call her characters grotesque; they seem like perfectly normal people to her!


message 15: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "I love those quotes, Tom. I borrowed the Library of America O'Connor collection, which includes a lot of her correspondence. What a funny and sarcastic person she was. One of the few authors that I..."

I got a particular kick out of "I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it."

If I'm not careful, her quotes could easily surpass Dorothy Parker and H.L. Mencken in my Tom's tidbits notebook.


message 16: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (goodreadscomdawn_irena) | 252 comments Tom - you have just mentioned two of the women I LOVE to quote for their sarcasm and wit ! I often find humor and intellect mixed with a beautiful woman as they were added to their appeal to most men ! Well, Dorothy definitely had her share and pick of the best ! HA!
I read many of O'Connor's stories stories in College and always wanted to read more ! She did remind me a bit of Eudora Welty too ! I am so happy we are reading this book !

Thank all of you for obliging me this choice this month . My next introduction is my write up on of ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART !!! I am so excited to introduce y'all to this lovely man !!! You will continue to see great things from him !

Sincerely ~ Dawn


message 17: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
I have a logistical question. I haven't read any story collections yet with this group so would like to know how the posting goes. Do we read and discuss the stories as we encounter them? If so, do we post under Initial Impressions or Final Thoughts. Personally, when I have my final thoughts I seriously doubt that I'll be in a mood to post them to GoodReads. ;>)


message 18: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 4115 comments Mod
Tom, in the past, it's been an "as you feel like it" posting. I don't think we have any rules, but it seems to work for a lot of people to post story by story, and others just join in for the ones they want to comment on. That's my preferred method, as not all stories engender great discussion topics. Initial impressions is the best place for that, and final impressions for what you thought of the work as a whole.


message 19: by Ctgt (new)

Ctgt | 40 comments Speaking of quotes, I loved a couple of the lines that were included in the introduction by Robert Giroux, her explanation of how she writes and the "Campfire Girl" response to an editor.


message 20: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Here's another treat to supplement our reading of the short stories of Flannery O'Connor. Watch The Displaced Person from the PBS Program "The American Short Story." The teleplay was written by Horton Foote, and was filmed at O'Connor's home, Andalusia. The Displaced Person . Enjoy!


message 21: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Lawyer wrote: "Here's another treat to supplement our reading of the short stories of Flannery O'Connor. Watch The Displaced Person from the PBS Program "The American Short Story." The teleplay was written by [au..."

I'm looking forward to watching this. The Displaced Person affected me more strongly than any of the other stories in [book:A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories|48464].


message 22: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Tom wrote: "Lawyer wrote: "Here's another treat to supplement our reading of the short stories of Flannery O'Connor. Watch The Displaced Person from the PBS Program "The American Short Story." The teleplay was..."

Tom, I think you'll find the program very good. I think Foote did justice to O'Connor.


message 23: by Franky (last edited Mar 05, 2016 08:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Franky | 327 comments Here is a copy of the program for The Displaced Person from youtube, with Henry Fonda with the introduction:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTRXg...

I agree that The Displaced Person is a great and interesting story/novella.

Mike, thanks for the above link about O'Connor. You know you're in a O'Connor story if......funny stuff!


Randolph (us227381) | 6 comments One of the underappreciated authors that crosses over into the genre of the truly weird story.


message 25: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
FYI: The Kindle version of A Good Man Is Hard to Find And Other Stories is on sale today at Amazon for $2.99. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003...


message 26: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Will start this one later today. Love this author so expecting good, albeit strange things.


message 27: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
I started with the stories from A Good Man Is Hard to Find and then moved on to Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories. It strikes me that there is a lot more humor in the latter collection. I wonder if O'Connor's style evolved during her career.


message 28: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Tom wrote: "I started with the stories from A Good Man Is Hard to Find and then moved on to Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories. It strikes me that there is a lot more hum..."

An interesting question, Tom. O'Connor was a perfectionist in her writing from her earliest days. She was known for repeated revision of her work. For me, her earliest work is exceedingly remarkable. The two volumes you are reading do not contain her first six stories which made up her thesis for her MFA. The anthology was submitted in 1947. You can find these stories in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose or in The Complete Stories.. There are still further stories published in magazines not included in the anthologies you are reading. For me, it is hard to find any O'Connor work that isn't a masterful work, though O'Connor said two of her MFA stories could have been discarded because she felt they said nothing. She was her own most severe critic.


message 29: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ So I read the first story, A Good man and it was going along swimmingly, even a little humor and than wham bam. Didn't see that one coming. Loved it though, and will continue on.


message 30: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (last edited Mar 10, 2016 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Diane S ☔ wrote: "So I read the first story, A Good man and it was going along swimmingly, even a little humor and than wham bam. Didn't see that one coming. Loved it though, and will continue on."

I belong to another group that is reading that book right now and the discussion of the story was amazing. There is a lot of religious subtext involved, (view spoiler). Fascinating stuff.


message 31: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
It seems that most of her stories center on people with, to put it kindly, preconceived notions about their fellow man. She doesn't overtly condemn them but she likes to portray them in all their grotesque realism.


message 32: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Kaso | 601 comments Well observed, Tom. I taught some of her stories when I was teaching midshipman candidates at the Naval Academy Prep School. We had a very diverse student body, small town & urban, a broad spectrum of society, and had very lively discussions around preconceived notions about people. The football coaches would ask me about what I was teaching as the players would be discussing the stories with great energy over dinner. Many of the students thought civil rights act had fixed everything, others were at pains to explain this simply was untrue, that prejudice got pushed under the surface & was alive & well. I often felt like a referee, needing a black&white striped shirt & a whistle to keep the discussion civil, but we really had great times. Years later I heard from students who remembered those classes as a place where they became more thoughtful about all sorts of issues, and learned to think. I thought it was important if they were going to serve together and possibly face danger together, that they should be able to talk with each other. Such great people, every day was a new challenge.


message 33: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Mar 11, 2016 05:28AM) (new)

Diane S ☔ Her characters are so complicated though, much under the surface. Read a biography of her life and she had lupus,,was ill often and a great people watcher. Also her Catholicism so often at play in her novels and stories.


message 34: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Patton | 21 comments Tom wrote: "Diane S ☔ wrote: "So I read the first story, A Good man and it was going along swimmingly, even a little humor and than wham bam. Didn't see that one coming. Loved it though, and will continue on."..."

In "A Good Man" I need help understanding the grandmother's final moments. She recognizes the Misfit as one of her own children and reaches out to him. He jumps back and shoots her.
Is this a moment of profound insight for this self righteous old biddy? Does she see herself for what she is? If so, does this save her soul? Is this a moment of grace? Or, is this merely a final selfish effort to gain sympathy from the Misfit to save her life? Or, am I over thinking this story?


message 35: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
Oscar wrote: "In "A Good Man" I need help understanding the grandmother's final moments. She recognizes the Misfit as one of her own children and reaches out to him. He jumps back and shoots her.
Is this a moment of profound insight for this self righteous old biddy?"


What struck me was that he waited until she exhibited a shred of feelings for other human beings before he killed her. Based on my limited understanding of Catholic doctrine, the Misfit essentially saved her by killing her while she was in a state of grace. It's a bizarre concept to wrap your head around but it is still fascinating.

I didn't see her as believing he was one of her biological children. I read that line as her acknowledgement that he and his kind were her creations because of her attitudes towards others.

I didn't really spend too much time on the Misfit's reaction to her touching him but others in the other discussion did. You may want to check it out. The group is Literary Darkness. It's a closed group so you may need to ask to join it to see the discussion but it is well worth it.


message 36: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Flannery O'Connor on the Grotesque in Fiction: "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature." From Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose


message 37: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Patton | 21 comments Lawyer wrote: "Flannery O'Connor on the Grotesque in Fiction: "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one..."
Lord have mercy. The more I learn about Flannery O'Connor the deeper it gets. "Christ haunted"? Indeed. O'Connor said somewhere that at the center of every story there is a mystery, a mystery which the writer cannot hope to solve but only to deepen. She certainly succeeds at the deepening. Can anybody help me with her line "The Southerner . . . . is very much afraid he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God"?


message 38: by Kaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaye Hinckley | 97 comments Oscar wrote: "Tom wrote: "Diane S ☔ wrote: "So I read the first story, A Good man and it was going along swimmingly, even a little humor and than wham bam. Didn't see that one coming. Loved it though, and will c..."
Oscar maybe this will help. The old lady's gross imperfections are opportunities for grace, just as are our own imperfections, because they offer a person a choice, by way of free will, to choose to act otherwise. In the Catholic Church view, there are two kinds of Grace--Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace. Sanctifying Grace, inherited from the God who made us, lives in the soul and stays in the soul—it’s what gives us our dignity as human beings. By contrast, Actual grace doesn’t live in the soul; rather, throughout a lifetime, it acts in the soul as divine pushes from God toward His goodness—often when a character, or a person for that matter, is far from goodness, but these fallible human opportunities can be our push toward God. However, those pushes must be noticed, and must require cooperation, as happens with both the Misfit and the old lady. A Catholic imagination like O'Connor's translates that tenet of grace in fiction.

The following is from Flannery O'Connor to John Hawkes, April, 1960:

"Perhaps it is a difference in theology, or rather the difference that ingrained theology makes in the sensibility. Grace, to the Catholic way of thinking, can and does use as its medium the imperfect, purely human, and even hypocritical. Cutting yourself off from Grace is a very decided matter, requiring a real choice, act of will, and affecting the very ground of the soul. The Misfit is touched by the Grace that comes through the old lady when she recognizes him as her child, as she has been touched by him in his particular suffering. His shooting her is a recoil, a horror at her humanness, but after he has done it and cleaned his glasses, the Grace has worked in him and he pronounces his judgment: she would have been a good woman if HE had been there every moment of her life. True enough. In the Protestant view, I think Grace and nature don't have much to do with each other. The old lady, because of her hypocrisy and humanness and banality couldn't be a medium for Grace. In the sense that I see things the other way, I'm a Catholic writer."


message 39: by Kaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaye Hinckley | 97 comments Oscar wrote: "Lawyer wrote: "Flannery O'Connor on the Grotesque in Fiction: "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able t..."

Oscar, you asked about this quote by O'Connor: "The Southerner . . . . is very much afraid he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God"?
To my way of thinking this comes directly out of the historical significance of the Bible in the Protestant South which led/leads to a Southerner's familiarity with the Incarnation and perhaps ( if he is a believer) the realization of his need for redemption.


message 40: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Kaye wrote: "Oscar wrote: "Lawyer wrote: "Flannery O'Connor on the Grotesque in Fiction: "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we ar..."

Kaye, an absolutely wonderful explanation.


message 41: by Kaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaye Hinckley | 97 comments Thank you, Mike. You know how I love Flannery!


message 42: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Wonderful explanations, Kaye. They help so much. Which is your favorite by her?


message 43: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Kaye wrote: "Thank you, Mike. You know how I love Flannery!"

As do I, Kaye. *smile*


message 44: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Patton | 21 comments Lawyer wrote: "Kaye wrote: "Thank you, Mike. You know how I love Flannery!"

As do I, Kaye. *smile*"


Thank you, Kaye. Yours is the best explanation of the essential O'Connor I have heard in all my years of reading and thinking about her works. Fascinating, troubling stuff. She's world class, not just Southern. I'll try to take advantage of my next opportunity for grace.


message 45: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Patton | 21 comments Kaye wrote: "Oscar wrote: "Tom wrote: "Diane S ☔ wrote: "So I read the first story, A Good man and it was going along swimmingly, even a little humor and than wham bam. Didn't see that one coming. Loved it thou..."
Thank you for this: nothing like O'Connor's own words to guide us.


message 46: by Kaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaye Hinckley | 97 comments Diane S ☔ wrote: "Wonderful explanations, Kaye. They help so much. Which is your favorite by her?"
So hard to say which is my favorite. There are several stories I can identify with personally. "A Temple of the Holy Ghost" would be one, then Mrs. Turpin in "Revelation," and of course, Hulga, the smug intellectual in "Good Country People." "Parker's Back" is also very thought-provoking. But I love her novels, too. "Wise Blood." and "The Violent Bear it Away." Always, she wrote what she believed. There is absolutely no political correctness with Flannery O'Connor! :)


message 47: by Kaye (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kaye Hinckley | 97 comments Oscar wrote: "Lawyer wrote: "Kaye wrote: "Thank you, Mike. You know how I love Flannery!"

As do I, Kaye. *smile*"

Thank you, Kaye. Yours is the best explanation of the essential O'Connor I have heard in all my..."

Oscar, thank you. O'Connor's writing is meant to 'trouble,' in my opinion, and when she makes good on that intent she pulls an A plus on every level.


message 48: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Mathews | 2646 comments Mod
This morning I finished reading/listening to Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories As with A Good Man, it is a brilliant collection of stories. Of all the stories in this collection, All of the stories are great but I suspect that The Lame Shall Enter First will stay with me for a very long time. My review is here.


message 49: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Mar 12, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Diane S ☔ Kaye wrote: "Diane S ☔ wrote: "Wonderful explanations, Kaye. They help so much. Which is your favorite by her?"
So hard to say which is my favorite. There are several stories I can identify with personally. "A ..."


Reading the temple of the holy ghost now and can identify as well after attending Catholic Schools. Think the good nuns gave the same speech. Also read Wise Blood with my in person book group and loved it. So much to discuss with that one, memorable characters.


message 50: by Tina (last edited Mar 14, 2016 03:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina  | 488 comments So far, I've only read the first two stories. I like to read short stories one at a time and digest them. It seems to be the only way I can appreciate them. The first two stories, The Geranium and The Barber, have not wowed me. I'm hoping I get enrolled in the next few stories. I remember skipping reading Flannery O'Connor in high-school and college. I'm hoping to appreciate her as an adult.


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