This collection is essential to both long time fans and first time readers interested in the work of Flannery O’Connor. My first time to read a handful of her short stories I was helpless to interpret them. One would expect that reading the 1950’s work of a female “Christ-centered” southern fiction writer would be a simple, modest or at least predictable experience.
However, while on the surface her material seems similar to other popular characterizations of the South (it is populated with racists, radicals, preachers, proper manners, crooked salesmen, farm animals, old money, haunting landscapes, gaudy outfits, cultural backwoods religion that borders on superstition, a wide variety of physical disabilities etc.) and while she writes in plain, though colloquial, English, the stories and her manner of telling them depict a strange, beautiful, comical and disturbing world all her own.
As with any good works of literature, the further I have read into her unique and surreal tales the more I have seen that they are the stories of everyone’s spiritual and physical deformities, including my own. While her work is humbling and full of supernatural grace, I would be amiss not to say that it is incredibly entertaining as well.
Published after she died young from lupus, The Complete Stories spans her entire short but prolific literary career, including the first complete short stories she ever wrote (and supposedly would have preferred not to have been published) all the way to her last piece “Judgment Day.” Over time I have come to learn that the best way to understand and enjoy her stories is to read more of them. This collection provides the perfect opportunity.
Singer-songwriter Chris Slaten releases music under the name Son of Laughter. His most recent recording, No Story Is Over, was made possible by the generosity of listeners who hosted and attended his house and church shows across the country. He’s currently working on a musical about the life of Jacob, though he spends most of his time teaching high school literature in Chattanooga, TN, where he lives with his wife, Lyndsay, and their three delightful children.