Introduced by C. E. Morgan
Illustrated by Deanna Staffo
A collection of arresting short stories by the inimitable Flannery O’Connor, with illustrations by Deanna Staffo and an introduction by C. E. Morgan.
‘His heart constricted with a repulsion for himself so clear and intense that he gasped for breath. He had stuffed his own emptiness with good works like a glutton.’ In ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’, one of the unforgettable stories in this collection, a widower realises that the charity of which he has been so indignantly proud was but a means of stifling his grief. The violent epiphany that seizes him comes too late – the tragedies wrought by self-delusion and hubris may, finally, be understood, but they may not always be repaired. This is the central theme of Flannery O’Connor’s coruscating, plain-speaking fiction: the painful, necessary salvation that emerges from catastrophic, life-changing, and sometimes life-ending, events.
‘Flannery O’Connor leaves the reader appalled, moved and deeply impressed by a literary talent that has about it the uniqueness of greatness’
O’Connor was the first fiction writer born in the 20th century to have her works collected and published by the Library of America. She grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Savannah, Georgia and stated that her writing was an expression of her religious commitment. Her characters are torn between the sensory and the spiritual, many of them gripped by morbid preoccupations as they attempt unsuccessfully to unite these dual impulses. Warped park guard Enoch Emery performs ritualistic tours, spying on female bathers and aggravating the animals at the zoo, awaiting the sign that will tell him to reveal the ‘mystery’ at ‘The Heart of the Park’. Many are fanatics, like the blind preacher in ‘The Peeler’. They, and their stories, are comic-grotesque, intertwining glimpses of the transcendental world with physical and psychological horror. This selection includes ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ and ‘Everything that Rises Must Converge’, two of O’Connor’s best-known works. Deanna Staffo’s powerful illustrations capture O’Connor’s Southern settings and macabre, surrealistic style. In a compelling introduction, American author C. E. Morgan, selected as one of The New Yorker’s prestigious ‘20 Under 40’ writers, explores the stories’ uncompromising, idiosyncratic wisdom.
Flannery O’Connor was born Mary Flannery O’Connor in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. She began writing short stories at the University of Iowa, but ill health forced her to return to her native Georgia in 1950, where she lived, in Milledgeville, for the rest of her life. Her first collection of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, was published in 1955. Her only other collection of stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), was published after her early death from lupus in 1964. Despite the small scale of her output, her Complete Stories won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1972 and her Southern Gothic style with its strong Catholic seam has been hugely influential. She was also the first fiction writer born in the twentieth century to have her work published by the Library of America.
C. E. Morgan studied English and voice at Berea College and holds a Master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of All the Living, published in 2009. She was born in Ohio and lives in Kentucky.
Deanna Staffo lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She received her Bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003, and is currently a professor in their illustration department. Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, the Society of Illustrators West, and the Altpick Awards. She illustrated What Katy Did for The Folio Society in 2011. She usually works in graphite pencils, charcoal, and acrylic paint.
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