Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) had a keen sense of vocation. She knew who she was and what she was put on Earth to do. The mystery moved in and around her from God's side and the human adventure shot through her days with moments of shattering revelation. Through her creative imagination, this citizen of Milledgeville, Georgia, who spent much of her life fighting lupus, which had taken the life of her father, spun out her own world in two novels (Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1964), along with 31 tales which were gathered together in a 1971 volume titled The Complete Stories. Through the lives of the country judges, landowners, farm hands, Protestant evangelists, and others who populated her fiction, O'Connor sought to convey the strange, the wild, and the often violent ways that salvation crashes life's party and sets people off on a new course.
Some found her writing too grotesque and overtly religious. Others could not fathom any meaning in it at all and called her a nihilist. But even her detractors were forced to admit the power, beauty, and intensity of her literary technique. She brought poetry and passion to the short story form and left behind a handful of classics in this genre.
Flannery O'Connor: Spiritual Writings, edited by Robert Ellsberg, is a volume in Orbis's Modern Spiritual Masters Series. In his illuminating introduction, Richard Giannone states: "As with the winged creatures she observed from her back porch, there is in O'Connor an energy that is always on the verge of taking flight from containment." Although she was storyteller, a literary critic, a religious thinker, and a public intellectual, this Southerner refused to be pigeon-holed. This paperback explores her Christian realism, her views on the relationship between faith and art, her beliefs about the Catholic church, and her fascination with grace and mystery. Also included is the complete text of O'Connor's short story "Revelation" and some of her many letters (previously collected in The Habit of Being)