The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

The Complete StoriesThe Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Originally published August 3rd, 2015
Well, that escalated quickly.

It all started out so well. O’Connor’s writing style reminds me a little of Faulkner’s; repetitive, simple, colloquial. But with periods and complete sentences. Being familiar with O’Connor’s reputation for grotesquerie, I thought I knew what I was getting in to. defines grotesque as:

1. odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.
2. fantastic in the shaping and combination of forms, as in decorative work combining incongruous human and animal figures with scrolls, foliage, etc.

So when I think grotesque, I think two-headed calf. A fish with three eyes. Gargoyles. I don’t think of murder. I don’t think of a body count that exceeds the number of short stories I’ve read so far. While all the stories certainly fit in the grotesque slot, they’ve got more of what I’ve decided to start calling “surprise violence” than I want to include in my life right now. As in “Surprise! We’re putting violence here! Surprise! There’s a death!” And maybe it would have bothered me even if I had had advance warning, but I like to know precisely what I’m getting in to. Grotesque didn’t cover it.

I loved O’Connor’s style. I definitely can’t fault her creativity; but I, personally, can’t handle her subject matter. If surprise violence doesn’t bother you, then I would highly recommend her works. Especially if you like Faulkner. But if your stomach (or heart) are a bit on the sensitive side, you may wish to avoid it. Or stick to her mellower tales: The Geranium, The Barber, Wildcat, The Crop, The Train, The Peeler, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Avoid at all costs A Good Man is Hard to Find and The River, and also The Turkey if you are sensitive about animals. Maybe in the future I’ll come back and hang out in O’Connor’s world. But she’s a lot like that friend who wants to watch horror movies every time you get together, and sometimes I just need a break.

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