In the June 30/July7 issue of World magazine, there is an “interview” with Flannery O’Connor. Taking excerpts from Mystery and Manners—a masterful collection of essays and talks about her craft as a writer—Marvin Olasky has created an interview of sorts in which he asks questions about fiction writing and Flannery O’Connor “responds” via quotes from her book.
While I am supportive of most anything that gives O’Connor a wider audience, unfortunately the method used in this article makes her seem humorless, didactic, and terse. While the “questions” are good, one cannot help but wonder what else she would have said in addition to the canned response. Another tricky element is that since the answers came before the questions there is a distinct lack of personality.
I say these things because I am a huge fan of Mystery and Manners and O’Connor and I would hate for people to miss the real author amid the quotes. Anybody who raised dozens of peacocks has to have some sense of humor.
O’Connor has much to say about art, writing, reading, and the intersection of faith and aesthetics. Hopefully articles such as this and last year’s Credenda Agenda devoted to her life and writings will create a desire for her work. O’Connor’s stories can sometimes be difficult to handle, but she is always working through grace and faith in the midst of this world.
As she says in her own words: The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures.