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“Southerness” and Catholicism were to me, as an Adventist teenager, equal parts exotic and vaguely threatening. I came of age in the 60s, a time of ferment and rage, amidst an explosion of creativity and the implosion of social institutions. Rock music, civil rights and feminist struggles, Vietnam, protests on campuses — events that defined an era that now seems light years behind us. My view of the Southern culture of America was shaped first by Faulkner’s short stories and later by his novels, and by books like John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, and the rhetoric of Martin Luther King. Catholicism as the counterfoil to Adventism was simply part of the air that we breathed.
But it wasn’t until the mid-seventies, when I took a course in 20th Century Literature from Dr. Joyce Rochat at Andrews University, that I came across Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor was Southern, Catholic, sardonic, and enthralling. She could write a line that seared itself into one’s brain and eyeballs (“Go back to **** where you came from, you old warthog!”) inside stories that created a haunting horizon of religion steeped in the grotesque. I found her fascinating. She loved peacocks, she had an acerbic wit, her powers of description were to be envied, and her religious consciousness permeated her landscapes and convulsed her characters. She died of lupus at the age of 39 on August 3, 1964. She was thus witness to radical challenges to the South because of civil rights, and to changes in Catholicism because of Vatican II (1962-1965). One of the angles of interest, then, in this new collection of letters, is her reactions to these changes.
Collection - Letters - Habit - Being - Letters
The first collection of her letters, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor (1979), was selected and edited by her good...
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"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift