By James Calemine
“Necessity is the mother of several other things besides invention.”
“Sally Fitzgerald gave me books by Flannery O’Connor, and I passed them along to Levon, who stayed up all night reading. In the morning he’d say, ‘Libby, she’s so heavy…’”
–Libby Helm in Levon Helm’s This Wheel’s On Fire
Flannery O’Connor, without a doubt, ranks as one of America’s greatest writers. Born on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, O’Connor’s work remains just as vital today as 1964 when she died of Lupus disease at age 39.
Her novel Wise Blood, books Mystery And Manners and The Habit of Being along with The Complete Stories containing short stories such as “Good Country People”, “The Violent Bear It Away”, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, “Everything That Rises Must Converge”, “The Displaced Person”, “Why Do The Heathen Rage?” and “Revelation” remain some of the finest work of any writer, from the south or anywhere else…
O’Connor’s disease forced her to spend much of her time at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia, on a farm she called Andalusia. Like most great writers, her style can be difficult to comprehend at first. However, her literary talent, style, tone and message resonates long after the book is on the shelf.
I always loved her book Mystery and Manners. This book is a soulful guide to any artist, but especially the writer. Seeds of blooming wisdom and stark insight reside beneath her words such as: “People are always complaining that the modern novelist has no hope and that the picture he paints of the world is unbearable. The only answer to this is that people without hope do not write novels.
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by the hope of money then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won’t survive the ordeal.”
She was an artist’s artist. She didn’t pander to those stuffy New Yorkers who scoffed at her characters and their accents. She pandered to no one. She stayed true to her vision whether people got it or not…like Hank Williams…or Blind Willie McTell. Her life and work proves inspirational–against all odds she prevailed–even in death. Flannery O’Connor wrote about matters of the soul.
A Good Woman Is Hard To Find.