The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

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Amidst my psychological thriller phase, I revisited the work of Flannery O’Connor, with the help of a brief course taught by a retired English teacher.  Each week we read three stories, listened to a lecture, and discussed our various takes on her work, most notably using the themes of faith, violence and retribution, justice; we also considered the external factors that might have influenced her writing, living in the south, her health, her family.  Having studied and liked O’Connor’s work while in college, I was interested in rereading some of these short stories, so I borrowed a copy of the book (it is what library people do) and dove in the evening before the first class.

I was hooked from the first sentence of each story, mesmerized by O’Connor’s writing and anxious to hear people’s reactions.  I was anxious to find out which friends read Flannery O’Connor and what they had to say.  The stories had a strangely satisfying and poignant darkness and an honest though often disappointing humanity.

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They were beautifully written; my fellow classmates had differing opinions about their meanings.  I then began reading articles about Flannery O’Connor (of which there are many), and stumbled on a 2010 biography by Brad Gooch.

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By the second week, I had purchased my own copy of the book. (less often the practice of library people) These are stories I know I will read over and over again, and will captivate me at different times.   I will want to share them.   I put The Complete Stories on our Staff Picks Shelf, and checked it out to a young mom who wanted to read something with teeth but only had time for short stories.  I found it again on our Staff Picks Shelf a few weeks later, placed on display by one of my colleagues.

I typically read new releases-not always best sellers, but recently published. (It is my secret to never having to wonder if I already read a book!)  I chat with patrons and colleagues, question my reading friends, browse Bookpage,, Book Riot, Kirkus and other book websites for recommendations,  and then practically chase down the UPS man when the boxes arrive from Baker and Taylor.  I become excited by reviews and end up spending all of my reading time with brand new fiction and brand new memoirs.  Flannery O’Connor’s work made me want to go back and read some classics if you will, to discover and rediscover writers from the first half of the 20th century.

Some of my favorite stories are:  The Enduring Chill, The Comforts of Home, Everything that Rises Must Converge, Revelation, Parker’s Back, Judgement Day…I hope sometime soon when you are in between books or looking for a different kind of read that you will pick up some Flannery O’Connor and get lost between the pages.