The Ghost of Flannery: O’Connor Encounters, Part 1

by K.M. Zahrt

Lately, Flannery O’Connor’s Ghost seems to be following me. Here’s what’s been happening:

1.  I recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and McCarthy has long been connected to O’Connor in my mind because, almost every time I read an article about him, her name seems to come up. (As an aside, The Road may be the subject of another post soon, but this post series is an attempt to exorcise O’Connor’s Ghost.) A quick Google search yielded the following example. In an interview with John Jurgensen of The Wall Street Journal in 2009, McCarthy brought O’Connor into the conversation without prompt. He said, “Someone asked Flannery O’Connor why she wrote, and she said, ‘Because I was good at it.’ And I think that’s the right answer” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704576204574529703577274572.html).

the_road

Similarly, a few weeks ago, I came across an article about McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian that referenced the work of O’Connor. Again, a quick Google search yielded an example. Forrest G. Robinson, in his essay “’War is God’: Cormac McCarthy’s Early Fiction,” writes:  “For in spite of its setting and demonstrable attention to regional history, Blood Meridian, with its graphic extremes of violence and bloodshed, its gothic tone and thematics, and its literary consanguinity with the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, may appear to some readers a southern novel somewhat arbitrarily displaced onto a western geography” (http://literatureandbelief.byu.edu/publications/war_mccarthy.pdf).

And I have been seeing O’Connor everywhere since.

2.  Next, I ran into a display at a bookstore in Brighton, Michigan, where an informed high school teacher thoughtfully recommended Wise Blood to her students. My experience has been that high-school English curriculum often features “classic” books. These books are, without a doubt, some of the best works of literature in the American canon; however, they are typically more accessible for teenage girls and often leave teenage boys uninspired. Teenage boys need fiction that is rebellious, that raises questions rather than illustrates poetically written answers. Therefore, I was pleased to see Wise Blood as a recommendation. Wise BloodThe Road, and Blood Meridian will likely appeal to a teenage-boy readership that even Cather in the Rye may leave behind. Once these young male students gain more experience with books that inspire them, that is when they will better appreciate books like To Kill a Mockingbird or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.

OConnor

To be continued…

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