Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love

Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love

Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love

Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love

Synopsis

Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love interprets O'Conner's perplexing fiction on its own terms. By stepping back from prevailing controversies, this seminal study takes the pleasure of turning to the short stories and novels themselves and forming an impression of them while seeking the answers to such questions as they necessarily suggest themselves. This goal inevitably entails a consideration of the hardness and violence that are the hallmark of O'Connor's genius. That severity for Giannone is inseparable from O'Connor's recounting, in her words, "the action of grace." God's bounty can leave its beneficiaries with some very real handicaps. Grace in this fiction can make the blood run cold; it can do real injury to the body; and it can annihilate. These devastations paradoxically prepare the characters to receive and give compassion. In its numerous and disturbing forms, the coupling of violence and hardship with divine favor marks the mature nature of O'Connor's Christianity. Suffering is found at heart of love and is its hidden face, agonized and abandoned. This is a love that is an anomaly and an enigma, for the wracked human body holds the glimmer of good omen. Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love traces the evolution of these gaping wounds of love to show how they present the same challenge to her readers as to her characters, all of whom must learn that we are worth what our love is worth.

Excerpt

But love your enemies, and do good … and you will be sons of the
Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
Luke 6:26

Having reached the age of ten, Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love is coming to new life, and that pleases me. When the book first came out in 1989, O'Connor's reputation was lofty and rising higher. Criticism of O'Connor then was in equal measure flourishing and gaining in contentiousness. The place of Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love amid that flurry now seems clear: it aimed to step back from the prevailing controversies to read this perplexing fiction on its own terms. At a certain distance from the fray, I could take the pleasure of turning to the short stories and novels themselves and form an impression of them while seeking the answers to such questions as they necessarily suggest themselves. This reissue gives me the chance to look back on the book's share in the evolving body of O'Connor studies and to reflect on the welcoming and risky spaciousness of faith in which O'Connor invites the reader to dwell.

By the end of the 1980s, twenty-six years after O'Connor's death in 1964, the lines of debate over her writing had been firmly drawn. Ever the astute judge of her own work and knowing reader of her readers, O'Connor had foreseen early on the direction scholars . . .

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