Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Book of Hulga

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Book of Hulga

Article excerpt

THE BOOK OF HULGA

By Rita Mae Reese (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the more than 50 years since her passing, Flannery O'Connor has become a literary icon. In an age when Catholic writers are often known for their wavering belief, O'Connor's knack for capturing the absurd and moving moments of struggling to understand God are inspirational to many writers today.

Rita Mae Reese is one such poet inspired by O'Connor's work. In fact, it's at times difficult when reading Reese's poetry collection The Book of Hulga--which investigates a fictional character, Hulga, who was mentioned in one of O'Connor's letters to her friend Betty Hester, but whom O'Connor never fully fleshed out in print--to not see the collection as Reese's personal tribute to O'Connor.

Reese uses lines by O'Connor as bookends to her poems, which helps create a chain of narratives that allows Reese to examine Hulga beyond O'Connor's vision of her as "an angular intellectual woman approaching God inch-by-inch grinding her teeth. …

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