Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flannery O'Connor Three Stories from the middle 1950s

"A Late Encounter with the Enemy" (1953, 14 pages)
"The River" (1955, 13 pages)
"A Circle in the Fire" (1954, 16 pages)

"shrieks of joy as if the prophets were dancing in the fiery furnace, in
the circle the angel had cleared for them."

My Prior Posts on Flannery O'Connor

O'Connor around six-already reading
Flannery O'Connor (1925 to 1965-Georgia, USA) is just a flat out genius!   I do not see how anyone who reads her stories could dismiss the short story as an uninteresting genre.    (My page lengths may not be exactly the same as those in the hard copy of the book as I am working from an e-text.)    I am currently reading all of the stories in The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor (1971).   The stories will sustain as much analysis as one cares to give them and much more.   O'Connor was a very committed Roman Catholic deeply into very serious theological reflections.   Her stories are full of Christian symbolism but that is only one part of their interest.   I am not really trying to convince anyone of her import, just read the stories with an open mind and decide for yourself is my only suggestion.

"A Late Encounter with the Enemy" is a very funny story.   O'Connor is believe it or not laugh out loud funny at times and her stories are very cinematic.    Creative writing schools tell their students to show what happens, not tell it and this is just what O'Connor does.   There are really only two characters that matter in this story, General George Poker Sash who is 104 years old,  and his sixty three year old granddaughter Sally Poker.   The general cannot remember much of anything about his life.   He cannot recall his children or his wife or even the American Civil War in which he was supposedly a General.   He is now brought out for public occasions like parades and holidays and put on the podium as a distinguished person.   He loves this as pretty girls come up and make a fuss over him.    His granddaughter is a teacher and for the last twenty years or so she has been going to summer school to get her teaching degree.   Her goal in life is for the general to live long enough to be on the podium when she gets her degree.  The date is coming up very soon.

"The River" centers on the effects of a riverside baptism of a young man.  Travelling preachers and faith healers were a big part of the culture of the rural American south in this period and O'Connor jumps right into this.   This is a very interesting story with a lot of symbolism and religious topics to reflect on.   It is also about family ties and the roots of dysfunctional families.

"A Circle in the Fire" just screams out to be analyzed and then analyzed over and over again.   As I read Flannery's work I am trying to figure out whether or not I should take her symbolism literally or if it is tinged with layers on tops of layers of narrative and historical irony.   I do not really feel inclined to retell at all the plot of this amazing story.   It is just so densely written.   I will simply say it might be a really strange retelling of the story of the attempt by King Nebuchadnezzar to burn three men in a fiery furnace because they refused to worship his gods.   It is also a story about class in the south.

O'Connor's stories more or less set the standard for Southern Gothic stories.

I am so glad I have the opportunity to read her stories now thanks to the generosity of a patron of my blog.  

O'Connors stories are a world class cultural treasure of the first order.

Please share your experience or thoughts on O'Connor with us.  Do you love her work or is it too Southern Gothic for you.     There is constant use of politically incorrect racial terms in the stories that may give teachers pause for fear of too much controversy.

Mel u

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"A Late Encounter With the Enemy" was one of my favorites that I read this year. A local library's discussion group read "A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories" this fall, and I joined them for the first time. A lot of the people there - and there were nineteen(!), a big number for a book group - didn't quite know what to make of O'Connor's style!