Over the summer, I’ve been reading works by Flannery O’Conner. For those who don’t know, O’Conner was born in Savannah Georgia and is well known for her literary fiction. She wrote two novels Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960). And she published two books of short stories. In 1964, she died from lupus at the young age of 39.
Back in March, I purchased The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor and particularly liked these stories:
A Good Man is Hard to Find
The Displaced Person
Everything that Rises Must Converge
The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Good Country People
You Can’t Be Any Poorer Than Dead
The Enduring Chill
A Late Encounter with the Enemy
A Circle in the Fire
Today much of our Christian fiction tends to be a bit sanitized, predictable, and sometimes on the preachy side. I suppose I’ve been guilty of that in my own attempts to write Christian fiction. Perhaps I can learn some things from O’Connor.
O’Connor was a devout Catholic who lived in the “Bible Belt” South, a protestant-dominated world. Though her characters can be grotesque and the storylines shocking, I’ve grown to love her work. The themes of transformation and grace stream through her stories, and her characters are often transformed in violent or disturbing ways. I’m also drawn to the southern backdrop of her stories. The issue of race seems to play in the background, though I’m not sure she intended that it be a dominant theme.
I know, her writing may not be for everyone, but I would recommend it, and I believe more Christians should read great literature. Also, the writers of today can benefit from the geniuses of the past. I’m not saying these works supplant the Bible, but we get to experience God and our humanity through minds deeply influenced by the Divine.
In my opinion, reading good literature is a moral activity in itself. And—our imaginations are a lot like muscles that need to be stretched and limbered up every so often. We can grow and stretch our faith through God’s power and the power of story.
How about you? What literary works have influenced you or have brought more meaning to your life?