Reviews

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, by Flannery O'Connor

radioactve_piano's review

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3.0

I love Flannery O'Connor's fiction, so when I discovered I still hadn't read this book six years after I bought it for a class as "supplementary material", I got excited.

Turns out I should have only been partly excited. O'Connor is predictably opinionated about all the topics within this book. For the most part, that wasn't a problem for me. I like her no-false-modesty stance on why she wrote ("because I'm good at it"); I like her annoyance at the idea that writing can be taught ("if it's not natural, coming from some place you tap into but have no control over, then it's not worth reading"); hell, I even liked her strong ideas about the difference between a "Southerner" and anyone else.

I just could not stand the religious parts. At all. It was as if she forgot all of her "rules" for others when religion came up; every essay or speech that touched on this topic was pretty much full of the stereotypical Catholic rhetoric that makes non-Catholics want to spit.

appelmoes's review

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reflective medium-paced

3.5

dh981's review against another edition

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3.0

Difficult to understand at first, but still worth reading. Flannery O'Connor is brilliant and everyone who consider themselves a reader needs to read her works!

mcribsy13's review

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challenging emotional funny inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.25

spacejamz's review

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5.0

If I hadn't discovered Anglicanism, this might have led me to converting to Catholicism. Here I found confirmed so many things I had been learning through her fiction, and through the processes of making and taking in art.

alltheradreads's review

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3.0

Flannery is my favorite. She was young and brilliant and sassy and so honest in her writing and faith. I can't read enough by her. When I found this collection of prose by her in my local used bookstore, I was so excited. It's a mix of essays and pieces she published and things that were never published, which was really cool to me. O'Connor writes a lot about writing, a lot about the South, a lot about the church and faith, and a lot about fiction/literature. If any of those things interest you, READ HER STUFF. That is all. If Flannery wasn't such an odd name, I would seriously consider it for my future child.

neuschb's review against another edition

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3.0

"All novelists are fundamentally seekers and describers of the real, but the realism of each novelist will depend on his view of the ultimate reaches of reality." So says O'Conner in "The Grotesque in Southern Fiction." I agree.

ill_be_your_huckleberry's review against another edition

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3.0

This is mixture of essays and typescripts for lectures produced in the 1960s. Flannery O'Connor has always been an enigma to me, and these writings give depth to lot of her literary idiosyncrasies. In particular, the grotesque and peculiar traits of many of her characters. O'Connor has an enormous fascination with the poor but not in an exploitative sense. The mystery of survival brings out those supreme personalities, and writers should take heed, instead of using plot to characterize. O'Connor explains this in detail for a workshop lecture: "In most good stories it is the character's personality that creates the action of the story. In most of these stories, I feel that the writer has thought of some action and then scrounged up a character to perform it. If you start with a real personality, a real character, then something is bound to happen; and you don't have to know what before you begin. In fact it may be better if you don't know what before you begin."

k_gregz's review

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4.0

I picked this up because I wanted more of Flannery O'Connor's snarky attitude in my life. Before reading this, I was only familiar with some of her interviews about the grotesque and being a Catholic writer in the South. You get a lot of that in here, to the point that it does get a little repetitive. I found myself getting bored when some of the essays returned to the same arguments about these topics. I also wasn't a fan of her disapproving stance towards modern literature and English teachers, though I was a little amused by it. However, I think her essay on the Southern Writer and the Grotesque and her essay on Writing Short Stories made the experience worth it. I'm probably partial to those because I usually teach "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and both of those essays address that story. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the last piece in the volume, an introduction for a memoir of a child who died young in a Catholic children's hospital. I loved the connection O'Connor traced between Nathaniel Hawthorne's encounter with a disfigured child in a hospital ward and his daughter's life's work, which established the hospital that cared for the young girl. But, to be honest, I knew I would like O'Connor's intro when it began "Stories of pious children tend to be false." That's my kind of snark.

idontkaren's review

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5.0

Deserves to be read and re-read, along with her short stories and novels.