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Reader’s Den

March in the Reader's Den: Flannery O'Connor

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Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) is best known by most for her short stories, joining Edgar Allen Poe and O. Henry in high school and college classrooms across the country, their stories studied as models of short fiction. O'Connor's knack for writing the twist ending, the grotesque character, and the play between good and evil have given her a reputation as a master of her craft, and also set her up for critics who find her work too formulaic, too rigid, and too expressive of her own religious ideals. Formulaic, maybe, but O'Connor's Southern Gothic stories can be such fun: dark, funny, twisted, and so vividly transporting, that they are surely worth a read, and a discussion.

Born Mary Flannery O'Connor on March 25th, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia, she attended Catholic school, and had an early liking for birds. Both her Catholicism and her love of birds would remain important in her personal and creative life as an adult, with her religion making an indelible mark on her writing. She once declared, "I write the way I do because I am a Catholic."

In her teens, her family left Savannah for Atlanta, then for Andalusia, their rural home outside of Milledgeville, Georgia due to her father's lupus. Later in her life, O'Connor would become ill with lupus herself, and once again return to the estate in 1951. She died in 1964, at the age of 39. She received the National Book Award in 1972, for The Complete Stories, published after her death.

Over the next three weeks, we will be discussing three of her most well known short stories, all included in A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) and The Complete Stories (1971).

Week 2: "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" When a tramp calling himself Tom Shiftlet happens upon the isolated home of Lucynell Crater, she starts to think she's found the perfect match for her daughter, but Mr. Shiftlet has other things in mind.

Week 3: "The Displaced Person" Mrs. Shortley watches in horror as The Guizacs, a family of Polish refugees, moves on to the estate of her employer, Mrs. McIntyre, bringing with them, she supposes, all the evils of Europe.

Week 4: "A Good Man is Hard to Find" A grandmother joins her son and his family on a trip to Florida, but on the way, she unwittingly leads them on a course towards disaster.

Please join us next week, as we discuss "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"!

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