Flannery O’Connor died fifty years ago today. She was, and remains, an American writer of great talent. I say “remains,” because she lives on in her work; she has achieved immortality and her work is alive and vibrant to this day. If you are an American Catholic with writing aspirations, or even writing accomplishments, please become acquainted with her stories if you are not already. You will learn quite a lot about the writing craft and what it means to be a Catholic writer.
Her fiction is collected in three volumes, her two novels ‘Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away.” Her short stories are all collected now in one volume, titled appropriately, “The Complete Stories.” There are several collections of her non-fiction, most notably, “The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor.”
I have only recently become familiar with her. Despite having the above four books in my library for several years, I only just read “Wise Blood” this past week, and am now happily making my way through her “Complete Stories.” I won’t be doing reviews any time soon, I doubt I’m qualified.
The point of this post is this: if one is a Catholic writer and is interested in building up and developing an authentic American Catholic culture, and follows Pope St. John Paul II’s suggestions that Christian art should infuse contemporary culture with the message of the Gospel, then one should study Miss O’Connor’s writings. She’s a good teacher.
If Catholic writers do participate in culture-building, we must look to what those who have gone before us have done. We learn from them, offer to the body of culture what we can uniquely contribute and in turn hope that our work survives on to enrich another generation. The living body of American Catholicism adds to the wonderful breath of diversity that is global Catholicism, offering people an alternative to the sterile materialistic secular order.