Author Flannery O'Connor and her childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.
March 25 marks the birthday of author Flannery O'Connor, the short story writer and essayist famous for her Southern Gothic tales, which are widely anthologized and studied as classic works of American fiction. Her macabre style, heavily laced with themes of violence, Catholicism, and morality, has enchanted readers for decades; at turns brutal and comic, her work is unique in tone and unmatched in craft. If you're looking to jump into Flannery O'Connor's work, here are some of our favorite titles available at your local library:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find is O'Connor's best known work, and its publication in 1955 catapulted her into literary fame, cementing her reputation as a leading voice in American fiction. The title short story, a grim tale about a senile woman and her family who get lost on a road trip, is emblematic of O'Connor's chilling style. If you haven't read it yet, it's a great place to start -- especially since it's one of the most widely read and highly acclaimed short stories ever.
Flannery O'Connor's first published work, about an anti-religious nihilist who returns from World War II and aims to spread atheism throughout Tennessee, didn't get a lot of critical attention at the time of its release. However, since then, it's been re-evaluated and praised as a witty, skillful, comic novel, with much discussion focusing on its treatment of religious themes such as sin, redemption, and faith.
If you like the religious themes in Wise Blood, then The Violent Bear It Away will be right up your alley: in this novel, O'Connor's second, she tells the story of Tennesse teenager Tarwater, who grapples with his destiny after his great-uncle, who raised him to be a prophet, suddenly dies. This Southern Gothic tale of interior turmoil, faith, and the conflict between religion and reason is an exciting, witty, and stomach-churning read.
Finally, we couldn't do this list without Everything That Rises Must Converge, O'Connor's second published collection of short stories. Touching on race, religion, and Southern lifestyle, this collection may not be as well known as A Good Man Is Hard to Find, but it's equally masterful and sharp. The stories in this collection were worked on towards the end of O'Connor's life -- she died of lupus at 39 -- and were published posthumously, cutting short an incredible and too-brief literary light.