Three More From Flannery O’Connor (Plus One)

From her essay, “The Regional Writer”: “When Walker Percy won the National Book Award, newsmen […]

David Zahl / 5.22.08

From her essay, “The Regional Writer”:

“When Walker Percy won the National Book Award, newsmen asked him why there were so many good Southern writers and he said, ‘Because we lost the War.’ He didn’t mean by that simply that a lost war makes good subject matter. What he was saying was that we have had our Fall. We have gone into the modern world with an inburnt knowledge of human limitations and with a sense of mystery which could not have developed in our first state of innocence – as it has not sufficiently developed in the rest of our country.”

From her essay, “On Her Own Work”:

“I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.”

From her essay, “The Fiction Writer & His Country”:

“To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility, and this is not a virtue conspicuous in any national character.”

And just in case you missed it the first time around, from her essay “On Her Own Work”:

“I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.”


4 responses to “Three More From Flannery O’Connor (Plus One)”

  1. alexnemily says:

    Great quotes! I see the same (appropriately) low anthropology in the TS Eliot quotes you posted.
    Do you have any favorite works from her?

  2. John Zahl says:

    Dave, these are great! I love the opener about the South. -JAZ+

  3. DZ says:

    Alex and Emily-
    The two posts i’ve done of quotes from Flannery have all come from her book of essays called Mystery and Manners, which i highly recommend.

    But if you need a good place to start, you should probably pick up her Complete Short Stories. It’s pretty cheap and has everything. My favorite being “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” though i confess i haven’t read all of them yet.

    hope that helps,


  4. Christopher says:

    Quotation #2 above reminds me of the movie Se7en with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey. The speech Spacey’s character gives during the car ride at the end is an O’Connor-esque homily.

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