The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

by Flannery O'Connor

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Special Award"I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O'Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her letters . . . There she stands, a phoenix risen from her own words: calm, slow, funny, courteous, both modest and very sure of herself, intense, sharply penetrating, devout but never pietistic, downright, occasionally fierce, and honest in a way that restores honor to the word."Sally Fitzgerald, from the Introduction

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.46
  • Pages: 640
  • Publish Date: August 1st 1988 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Isbn10: 0374521042
  • Isbn13: 9780374521042

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O'Connor had returned to Midgeville, Georgia to be cared for by her mother and lived fourteen years after her diagnosis, publishing two novels (Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away) and a multitude of short stories, some published posthumously in 1965 in All That Rises Must Converge. The author reserves much space to discuss her Catholic faith, its role in her work and in critical misreadings of it, as well as describing events such as writing panels, college lectures or fan mail with deadpan wit. On her college education: I didn't really start to read until I went to Graduate School and then I began to read and write at the same time. They asked me such things as "Miss O'Connor, why did they stop at The Tower?"--trying to make something of the word tower. At one place where I talked one of them said,"Miss O'Connor, why was the Misfit's hat black? On writing habits: I write only about two hours every day because thats all the energy I have, but I dont let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I dont think any of that was time wasted. On writing: You have to let things in the story do the talking. You get into the old man's mind before you let us know exactly what he looks like. Writing in the 1950s and early '60s, O'Connor's time and place were another world compared with today's. The uneducated black manual laborers who worked for her mother are viewed with a sort of bemused detachment and while O'Connor expresses no racial bigotry, she comfortably quotes the word "nigger" in reference to statements made by others about blacks.

Up until now I have not loved Flannery O'Connor's writing. Now I love her writing and herself. I have spent almost the entire year reading these letters. Eventually reading a few letters a day became a habit for me and now I am forlorn.

This was the book that converted me.

Solo di recente ho capito che non si ottiene niente restando alla superficie delle cose, come tutti, l'ho scoperto a mie spese, e soltanto negli ultimi anni grazie, credo, a due cose: la malattia e il successo. Non sono mai stata altrove che malata. La malattia prima della morte è cosa quanto mai opportuna e chi non ci passa si perde una benedizione del Signore.

========== This is by my bedside and I am really enjoying reading Flannery O'Connor's letters which at this early stage of the book are mostly to her publishers about problems OR to pals about life in general. Also, now that I am further into the book, she is revealing more of the underlying thoughts behind her stories and the underlying Catholic worldview that she writes from (and lived from). In her letters to her friends I learned a lot about writing, the Catholic faith, and living a full life under difficult circumstances.

È quindi evidente che ho potuto cogliere solo in parte alcune delle tematiche, intrinsecabilmente legate ai suoi racconti e romanzi. Le sue lettere sono dirette, pratiche, parlano del suo mondo piccolo (la famiglia, la malattia, i pavoni e i cigni che amava allevare) e del suo mondo grande (i romanzi che devono decantare, le critiche, i caratteri dei personaggi, le interpretazioni dei suoi racconti che lei accoglie quasi sempre con stupore o disinteresse).

I like how the singular Ms. Mary Flannery O'Connor signs off: I hope you are finished with the grip and feel well again. I am going to be the World Authority on Peafowl, and I hope to be offered a chair some day at the Chicken College. This refers to the fact that I have been painting with a palette knife because I dont like to wash the brushes.

non ti incontrerò mai e forse è meglio così, l'immagine di te riesce più chiara nello scritto, sei vera, ironica e polemica; ma quanto sarebbe bello vedere quei tuoi splendidi pavoni e tutti i pennuti scorrazzare liberi nella tua casa Andalusia!!

OConnor was educated at the Georgia State College for Women, studied writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and wrote much of Wise Blood at the Yaddo artists colony in upstate New York.