Saturday, February 25, 2012

a knock on her name

Is it weird that I don't like Flannery O'Connor? Because I don't.

I almost feel compelled to, because the MFA end of the literary/publishing spectrum is in sappy drippy love with her, as were most of my professors in high school and college, and I never understood what all the fuss was about.

I mean, “Good Country People” is okay enough - religious hypocrisy, the distorted body, etc. - but "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" just...sucks. Most of the story is the grandmother saying BOY I HOPE THE ANTAGONIST DOESN'T SHOW UP, so of course he does, but his arrival is telegraphed in such an obvious, hamfisted way that it takes me out of the story.

That kind of irony isn't a bad thing, even in doses as heavy as O'Connor's body of work, but I don't get the sense that her characters were meant to be anything but dumb and hopeless. Relatedly, I never got any sort of narrative signal that her characters were created with any sense of sympathy or recognition - it's as though they existed just so their author would have things to bully and feel smarter than ("Revelation" comes to mind here). There's a basic sense of humanity that I never found in her work, so reading it is mostly a flat and numbing experience for me.

Am I missing something here? Are there stories I should re-read, or pieces of criticism I should find that puts O'Connor's joylessness into some kind of larger context? I feel like she's been put on this pedestal where you're not allowed to question what a genius she was (hence all the looks I get when I voice this opinion), and I'm not really trying to pick a fight here, but I think that's really unhealthy.

Anyway, time to get to work. More later.

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