Wednesdays at Macsbooks will be set aside for the unusual books – the children’s books, non-fiction, quirky or seldom read genres. After spending a year, 2017, rapidly reading the hottest best sellers, I needed a time to get back to my roots of reading books for the sheer love of reading. This has included simple titles, love stories, historical fiction, scholarly writings and science fiction. I’m definitely not a one genre type gal and I hope that is reflected throughout this blog. With that said, let’s talk about Ms. O’Connor.
At university I floundered, no wait, I explored…. several academic degrees before (finally) graduating with a double major, double minor. I actually had enough hours in literature to add an addition minor in lit and it was due entirely to Flannery O’Connor. I followed her through American Literature, Great Female Writers, Southern Literature and more. I simply could not get enough of Flannery O’Connor and her eclectic writing style. Imagine how exited I was when I discovered A Subversive Gospel, a new look at O’Connor’s writing and the influence that her devout Catholicism played on her writing and her characters.
In A Subversive Gospel, a very readable academic book, Bruner examines O’Connor’s works through the microscope of her religion and asks that you, the reader, do the same. He points out that much of O’Connor’s work was heavily influenced by Baron Friedrich von Hügel and Thomas Aquinas – and it was – as well as by her own devotion to the Catholic church and her fascination with the Catholic saints. Bruner then suggests that O’Connor’s writing shows the reader God’s grace through the ugly, malformed and the sinner which is far more great a grace than one seen through the eyes of the saint. It is an interesting premise for which he has much research and scholarly backing. It is a well written and thoughtful book. However…
After studying O’Connor as much as I have done over the years and loving her and her characters as I have, I must add that it was O’Connor’s writing that led me to leave the church entirely. Through her eyes and her writing I saw the church and the South as it truly was – a place not filled with beauty but of underlying darkness. O’Connor struggled with illness throughout her adult life, as have I. She was devout, as was I, and through her writing I often saw a woman, much like myself, who knew what we were supposed to believe but knew there was an underbelly of something else lying there. She showed her readers that underbelly, the darkness, the cruelty, the ugliness that was the church, the south, its people. IF you are a very religious person and you want to see a very religious, devout woman, then that is what you will see in her work – I suppose – as Bruner has done. IF you are a woman, raised in the South, raised in a community of misogyny, of racism, in a world where anyone who is not white, male and perfect is condemned, then I suspect that, as I did, you will think this book is an interesting read but full of rubbish. O’Connor was a strong woman who was marching against her time, against her culture and through her work she still is. I will not reduce her to a religious paradigm. She was far too talented for that.