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Posts tagged "Flannery O’Connor"

Another Week Ends: Cognitive Dissonance, Habit Formation, Transparent Influencers, Aging Album Covers, and a Love That Casts Out All Fear

1a. It’s been a big week for the social scientists among us. Two of our favorites, Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris, had a hit article over at the Atlantic this week. We’ve been following the duo since 2011, when they published Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). The authors are experts in describing how […]

The Blessing (in which I begrudgingly admit everything will be alright)

Confessions of a Certified Catastrophizer

Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid

Next up in our series of conference videos, Will McDavid discusses the lesser known short story, “A Circle in the Fire,” by Flannery O’Connor. A thorough take on a story that blazes…

Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid

Another Week Ends: Contingent Self-Esteem, the Devil in the Mirror, the Perception Gap, Little League Brawling, Cain and Abel and Forgiveness

1. Some fascinating links for your perusal this week, first of which is this, from Vice: The Pursuit of High Self-Esteem Is Making Us Miserable, by Shayla Love. What is here defined as “self-esteem” would be more accurately rendered “contingent self-esteem.” Notably the most popular of its kind, contingent self-esteem resembles flattery or affirmation and […]

Another Week Ends: A Heaven-Sent Car Crash, the Anti-Aging Taboo, Fearful but Trendy Parents, the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor, and Sending Books to Kids in Houston

1. An amazing story of reconciliation in the latest episode of Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight, the podcast DZ recommended in last week’s AWE. Every episode turns back the clock, diving into the past of a different person with unique resentments or grievances to air out. The most recent episode is the story of Jesse, a man who […]

Do You Need a Receipt to Return a Christmas Miracle?

I’m quickly coming up to the two year anniversary of when I nearly, nearly, shouted a four letter word in a crowded auditorium. And it wasn’t fire. I was at a Christmas concert, and the organizers had thoughtfully placed magnets with handwritten Bible verses underneath all of our seats. At a certain point in the […]

Just My (Christian) Imagination Running Away With Me

This article was originally posted by the John Jay Institute, as part of an online symposium it held on Christian Imagination a couple years back. It’s been lightly edited. It’s embarrassingly difficult to find oneself largely without answers but with questions, especially in the context of beautiful reflections on art, liturgy, the imago dei, and […]

Roughing Up an Isle of Dogs

The debut of the unbelievably delightful first trailer for The Isle of Dogs (which arrives in theaters on yours truly’s birthday – coincidence?) is as good an occasion as any for posting a few paragraphs from the Wes Anderson essay that opens Mockingbird at the Movies.

“The very mention of a religious dimension to Wes Anderson’s films may sound surprising, even bizarre. It is certainly not what he is known for. Critics praise his visual imagination, his attention to detail, his pet themes and oft-imitated (but never replicated) whimsy. They do not, as a group, gravitate toward spiritual language when discussing his movies. If anything, Wes has been criticized for the emotional distance of his dollhouse-like visions. The net effect of the fanciful scenery and mannered dialogue is to keep the viewer from fully entering into the picture, heart-wise, to say nothing of the spirit. Everything is so gloriously precise; it seems there is no room in a Wes Anderson film for any deity other than Wes Anderson.

While such a view may not be entirely unfounded, it does not account for the stories themselves, in particular the trilogy of The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. What emerges is something more akin to the fake Italian talk show interview with Wes that’s included on the Criterion edition of The Life Aquatic. Following a series of increasingly awkward exchanges, the befuddled host asks the director point- blank if he believes in God. Wes answers, “Eh, I think so. Yeah. I mean, roughly.”

By “roughly” he no doubt meant “approximately,” yet given the films in question he might as well have been using it in the physical sense. In Anderson’s films, God intervenes upon hapless human beings with force, often in the guise of something cataclysmic and unpleasant–as a divine interruption as opposed to something engineered by one of the protagonists. However precious his sensibility may be in other ways–that is, the opposite of gothic–Wes demonstrates time and again an implicit grasp of what novelist Flannery O’Connor once described in relation to 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.

Where Flannery speaks of hard-headedness, Wes’ characters tend to be softer, not so much calloused by suffering and indignity as consumed with charming minutiae and narcissistic navel-gazing. But the inwardness proves intractable and warrants just as much of an abrupt, outside interruption.” (pg 16-17)

To read more…

Another Week Ends: Dylan, Cash and O’Connor, Gospel Guitar, Cathartic Indignation, Black Mirrors, and Impossible Fun Runs

1. Awesome, awesome story about a funky gospel music guitarist in the Atlanta area named Don Schanche, who also happens to be white. The Bitter Southerner published Don’s story, which gives a beautiful picture of racial reconciliation happening not on some abstract or systemic level, but interpersonally, on-the-ground, as a fruit of the gospel. The […]

Karl Ove Knausgaard Loses Control

How I spend my time, what books I read, where I get my news, who I talk to and allow to influence me, these are the things I always want to manage (and micromanage). This is clearly a huge factor in my tendency to procrastinate. I don’t want to do that, so I put it […]

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

From our friend Jeff Dean, another Alabamian who knows a thing or two about procrastination. Zing!   [Some spoilers below] You probably shouldn’t read Harper Lee’s “new” novel, Go Set a Watchman. If the book interests you as a “sequel” to her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re apt to be profoundly disappointed: the characters seem […]

Vast Construction Work in O’Connor’s Wise Blood

A quick passage from Flannery’s first novel, Wise Blood, that comes just after protagonist Hazel Motes has arrived in Taulkinham (“Town of the Little Cross”). The following doubles as both a dark look at how consumerism has limited our vision and a metaphor for O’Connor’s fiction falling on unreceptive ears:

His second night in Taulkinham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky. The stores in Taulkinham stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.


Motes goes on to found the “Church Without Christ” and preaches from atop the hood of his car before blinding himself with lime and ending up dead in a ditch (can you say BLEAK!?). Yet despite his efforts to physically blind himself, he still has the tools to see Christ. He desires after the truth that O’Connor’s fiction tries to present. But he’s not quite there yet. Fortunately, the beauty of the prose – the description of the sky as God’s “vast construction work” – is also an encouraging reminder of His presence in and around us.