I was very uncomfortable with Flannery O’Connor’s writing.
I am a very sunshine-y person who loves to read about my faith so when I heard multiple sources in the Catholic world talk about what an incredible Catholic author she was, I skipped off to my book store and purchased Wise Blood. I still haven’t recovered from the experience of reading that book, it has so haunted me.
Determined to find out what it was that I was missing, I ended up reading a biography on O’Connor by Brad Gooch and it struck me that whenever he quoted her, I was always delighted.
How did this Flannery O’Connor square with the woman who wrote the things that she wrote?
I decided to go to the source and purchased The Habit of Being to try and get to know her through her letters in her own words.
It took me about three years to work my way through the rather substantial book. I wanted to read it here and there, to lend to it more of a penpal experience.
It was excellent. Flannery O’Connor was a funny, bright and faithful woman with many struggles both internal and external. She had very many deep conversations with her friends captured, in written form, for the rest of us to listen in on. I learned much about the Catholic faith, life on a farm in Georgia during her time, the craft of writing and, what I hoped for from the purchase of the book, I learned much about her writing.
There is a lot of discussion about her short stories and her final novel, The Violent Bear It Away, that really edified me concerning her motives when writing what she wrote and even made me curious to read them.
Once I’d finished the book of letters, I wanted see if getting to know her would better improve my understanding of her work. I thought I’d try it out on “A Good Man is Hard to Find”. I figured it was the safest bet because if you ask practically anyone which is their favorite story, they pick that one.
I loved it. Not only did it get an emotional response from me, but I halfway understood it (Cliff Notes filled in the other half).
I would recommend The Habit of Being to both get to know Flannery O’Connor as a person and also to better understand her writing. Also, there is much for aspiring writers to glean from it and plenty for anyone who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith.