For my recent birthday, my husband gave me the The Complete Works of Flannery O’Connor. She is one of those authors I have heard about for years but never got around to actually reading. I have read about half of the collection. I really am enjoying the stories in an odd sort of way. Flannery O’Connor can transport me into a scene so completely that I feel, see, hear, and smell the action.
New York was swishing and jamming one minute and dirty and dead the next. His daughter didn’t even live in a house. She lived in a building—the middle in a row of buildings all alike, all blackened-red and gray with rasp-mouthed people hanging out their windows looking at other windows and other people just like them looking back. Inside you could go up and you could go down and there were just halls that reminded you of tape measures strung out with a door every inch. (The Geranium by Flannery O’Connor)
Yet, so much of the time it is action I would rather avoid. The stories are dark. They don’t hide from the evil side of human nature. She uncovers all the misery, despair, and sin I would rather not think about. She doesn’t pretend that the bad guys don’t ever win an earthly battle. Yet somehow, at the end of the story, I am not left despondent. I really can’t explain it. Maybe it is because tucked inside each of her stories there is a spark of true goodness. The vignettes are short, so if the little glimmer of hope hasn’t triumphed by the end of the story, the optimist in me still believes it will win out in the end. Flannery O’Connor just didn’t write that far. Or maybe that is how I justify continuing to read these short stories that bring out a morbid voyeurism akin to staring as I pass an auto accident.
I am glad this book is a compilation of short works. It is perfect for reading a small dose and mulling it over. This is definitely a book to be sipped like a very hot cup of morning coffee.