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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flannery O'Connor-Three Wiseblood Stories from 1949

"The Peeler"  (1949, 12 pages)
"The Heart of the Park" (1949, 14 pages)
"A Stroke of Good Fortune" (1949, 12 pages)

In The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor there are four stories that were worked into her first novel, Wiseblood  (1952).  I have already posted on one of them "Enoch and the Gorilla".   I have not yet read Wiseblood  but I think I can safely say it has got to be a strange and wonderful book with enough symbolism, hidden depths of meaning and sheer verbal brilliance to amaze anyone.  There is some background information on O'Connor (1925 to 1965,  Georgia, USA) in my prior posts on her.

These stories are a quantum leap up in depth and complexity as well as beauty from the six stories in her master's thesis, The Geranium and Other Stories,  submitted to the University of Iowa writers program in 1947.

I think with these three stories I will just sort of do a brief entry on each story.   I can already see I will at the end of my first read through of her stories see her as a "must read" genius of the form.   Also I am  not sure if  O'Connor really meant these stories to be experienced as standalone works.   Maybe she just for practical reasons found it necessary to publish these stories while she was working on Wiseblood.  

"The Peeler" starts out in front of a traveling salesman who has set up an impromptu shop where is he selling a marvelous potato peeling machine.    The machine takes the potatoes in brown and turns them out pure white.  Remember that in rural Georgia in 1949 to be white was considered the best thing to be.   Hazel Motes is at first fascinated by the machine and held captive by the pitch of the very practiced salesman.   He ends up being distracted by a blind preacher who is accompanied by a young woman who is handing out religious leaflets.    He runs into Enoch, one of the central characters in Wiseblood  and they both end up following the blind man down the street.

"The Heart of the Park" is about Enoch's very strange personal  life.   I was surprised to see his attitude to women and to find the large number of prostitutes in the world of this story.   The narrator of the story calls the women that Enoch as sex with whenever he can afford the two dollars they charge, "whores".    It is not clear if this is meant literally or is a devise to get us into the mind of Enoch.   He also likes to go to the public swimming pool as a lot of the women there have splits in their bathing suits and sometimes he gets to see more than he is suppose to.   I know there is enough symbolism in this story to fuel numerous dissertations.      For sure there  is a lot to think about in this story.

"A Stroke of Good Fortune" is mostly about a married woman in her mid-thirties.   Her brother has just come home from the war in Europe so that makes the date 1946 or so.    When her brother left he was according to the woman the worst most ignorant kind of backwoods slow minded hayseed.   She hoped the years away had smartened him up and made him worldlier.     She is very disappointed when the first food he asks for upon coming home is not some fancy French dish but simple down home collard greens.   We learn about the very dysfunctional family the brother and sister are from.   We learn how their mother was an old woman worn out at thirty four.   There is just a lot of great lines in this story.   Who else but Flannery O'Connor would describe a car like in this fashion:

"He saw a high rat, colored car passing, which sounded as if
its motor were dragging out the back."

I will be posting on additional stories soon.  

Please share your experience and feelings on O'Connor with us.

Mel u


Nan said...

I've tried her work in the past, and just couldn't get interested. I think I may just have trouble with that kind of southern gothic style. Great reviews, though, and I'm glad you like her so much!

Mel u said...

Nan-for sure heavy duty Southern Gothic-thanks so much for your comments and visit

ds said...

I went through an absolute Flannery O'Connor craze when I was younger. Time to re-read those stories. Thanks, Mel!!

Song said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure that I would want to read Flannery O'Connor. However, if I get the chance i'd be willing to give just one story a go...

Mel u said...

ds-as in many things, our opinions on O'Connor seem to coincide

Risa-why do you hesitate to read O'Connor? her stories are wonderful and deeply Christian

Song said...

Are they? From the brief summaries I've glimpsed through your posts they sound, well...I cannot put the right words to it. But I get a sense of what I'd felt when I'd read Waiting for Godot... a sense of aimlessness and hopelessness.

However, I guess you're right. It isn't something I should decide on without trying her out first...