Monday, April 4, 2011

Reading List Review--Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor

So, yes. As usual, this collection is chock full of good reads. And since it was a collection, my review is going to be haphazard at best; there was simply too much to do everything justice.

Bottom line, I like the short stories very, very much. I think a lot of time Southern writers can get lost in the foggy lands of dialect, so that they lose their readers, myself included. Too often it's a pain to read dialect, so much a pain that it distracts from what the story is actually about. Take Eudora Welty--I love her sense of region and myth, her phrasing and etc.--but the dialect makes me dislike the actual reading of her writing. Does this make sense? Or am I just a lazy reader? LOL.

Anyway, the dialogue is not only reader-friendly with O'Connor, it also serves a purpose. The accents of her characters make them funny, or terrifying, or ridiculous, or irritating--which in my mind, is what any literary technique should do. Props to Ms. O'Connor.

By the way, the majority of the short stories are just plain backwoods-humor funny. I laughed at every single one of them, even the ones where I probably shouldn't have. But they were that almost accidental kind of funny; you know the kind, when you're reading about some big and important something, like death or  birth of a child, or religion, or criminal activity, and you just happen to be laughing the entire time some great philosophical point is being made about that big important something. More props to Ms. O'Connor.

I also like that she doesn't shy away from the race issues which, frankly, are still a huge part of American culture no matter where you go....though anyone who likes to read politically correct writing, or who has a problem facing the distasteful fact of how blacks/foreigners/urbanites are viewed and talked about in the South (and the Midwest, for that matter), may have issues with the words the character use. Though sadly these instances, like all the N-bombs and all those other racial slurs, read as "accurate" rather than "racist"... which makes me wonder to what extent our language shapes our worldviews, and to what extent our worldviews shape our language. What exactly does separate but equal mean, anyway? It's nice to read an author who gives such a here's-how-it-is version of America, because it makes you think more about yourself and your family and whatnot; makes you examine more that way. But at spots it is kind of in your face.

I should mention here I'm not trying to alienate anyone.

To go on. I have to admit I just couldn't get into Wise Blood, one of the novels in the collection. I don't know why. *shakes head* I could tell it was very well written, but no matter how many times I started it I couldn't really get going. Now, The Violent Bear It Away, which I believe is a novella, I really enjoyed, both as a reader and a writer. I can't pinpoint the difference in the two, other than the obvious. *shakes head again* I figure I'll come back to Wise Blood in another year. It took me a couple breaks to be mentally ready for some of my favorite books of all time (Tale of Two Cities, Banana Rose, Paradise Lost--a whole bunch actually) so I'm guessing now's just not the time for it.

The discrepancies between Catholicism and Protestantism and how back-country folk deal with those discrepancies among themselves was spot on, I thought. I didn't grow up in the South, but I think a lot of the attitudes Ms. O'Connor's characters hold are the same ones with which I was surrounded as a child growing up in the hills. She does an excellent job of making the ways we see our gods, our cultures, (and thus, ourselves) simultaneously aboslutely necessary to our sense of self and, alternately, utterly ridiculous in the face of "real" life. Just some really good true, funny, discerning writing.

So yeah, I dig. Hooray for reading! (I'm such a dork...)

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