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

Monday, December 19, 2011

"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" and "Enoch and the Gorilla" by Flannery O'Connor

"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (1955)
"Enoch and The Gorilla" (1950)

Podcasts of Two Flannery O'Connor Stories
A Great Podcast Resource

So far I have read and posted on five of Flannery O'Connor's (1925 to 1965-Georgia, USA) thirty two short stories.  (There is some background information on her in my prior posts.)    The five stories I read, particularly "Good Country People" were enough to convince me she was true master of the form (and to put her picture in my header collage!)   

My main purpose in this post is to spotlight a new too me resource I have recently discovered, Miette's  Bedtime Story Podcast, which has online 100s of literary quality short stories as podcasts.   The selection is just brilliant including some items you will be shocked to see.   Miette has been posting podcasts for four years now and her webpage has a strong personal feel and reflects a deep love and appreciation of the short story as an art form.   Miette has a beautiful speaking voice.   She does her posts at home and sometimes you can hear her dog barking in the background and the doorbell or phone ringing but this just added to the charm for me.   

Podcasts are a kind of a trade off for me-they take a lot more time to experience than simply reading a story which is bad but they do force me to slow down a bit and reflect on what I hear.   They are also good when you are feeling lazy or are in a car for a long ride etc.   I am just a newbie when it comes to podcasts and such but I was after a bit of a learning curve easily able to listen to them on my Ipad.   

I listened to both of these stories twice, once last night and once this morning.   

"Enoch and the Gorilla" (running time  17.5 minutes) was turned into a chapter in her first novel, Wise Blood (1952).   Enoch (the name comes from an ancestor of Noah-I looked it up!) is a young zoo keeper in Georgia (part of the American South) in the years right after WWII.   Enoch hears that there is a gorilla at the local movie theater, there to help promote a movie.   He goes to the theater to see the gorilla and is shocked to realize it is a man in a gorilla suit.  (not everybody in O'Connor's stories is real bright).   The gorilla for pretty much no reason curses at Enoch and tells him to go to hell.   This causes him to have a minor revelation of sorts.   There is a lot of religious, Catholic, symbolism in her stories and I am sure there are biblical references and symbolism galore in this story.   

"The Life You Save May Be Your Own" (running time 35 minutes) seems the deeper of the two stories and is very typically O'Connor in its use of dysfunctional characters right out of the core of the Southern Gothic vocabulary.   (Personal fantasy disclosed, I wish O'Connor could have written some True Blood episodes.)  O'Connor seems to have a thing for amputees, women and their daughters who have their lives heavily impacted by a wandering stranger in the form of a single man.   The men are near rootless close to tramps.   Relationships form quickly and are ended just as fast.   Men are pretty much the villains in these stories.   In The Life You Save May Be Your Own" a man shows up at the home of a single woman and her sixteen year old daughter.   The man is a carpenter by trade ((OK Jesus was a carpenter also-run with the idea!).   The woman offers him work but says she can give him only food and he can live in her broken down for 15 years car.  In the old South it was, I believe, common for people to have broken down cars in their front yards.   This is taken kind as a class mark kind of item.   The daughter is 15 or so and is supposed to be quite beautiful.  She also might be mentally dysfunctional as she does not speak much.   When the mother decides she wants the man as a son-in-law, she uses that as a selling point for the girl.   I will leave the rest of the story untold.   This is a really brilliant story and I am sure it also has a lot of symbolism just below the surface.   

Fact of life, a lot of material that is not in the public domain can be found online.   Who knows how this happens and maybe in some cases it is legal or the web master has permission.   Maybe podcasts are an exception.   The laws of some countries are very specific on Internet posts of material, other countries legal codes have not been updated for decades so the question is not addressed.   Maybe residents of one country can legally download material that others cannot.   In some places  publishers and authors have easy recourse to remedies, in others pretty much nothing can really be done.  

Take a good look at Miette's  Bedtime Story Podcast-

It looks like as great resource and there are a lot of works on there that really shocked me to see.   Miette has superb taste and a wonderful voice and her write ups on the stories are also delightful.   She posts a new story about once a week.   
Mel u


Órfhlaith Foyle said...

Hello Mel U,
I've enjoyed this post this morning. I love and admire Flannery O'Connor's work.
Thank you,

Mel u said...

Órfhlaith Foyle-thanks very much for your comment and visit-I love Flannery O'Connors stories and hope to read her novels also

Unknown said...

I think most people consider The Life You Save May Be Your Own to be the better of the two. I agree with you that there is much more going on in it than in Enoch and the Gorilla. But I still prefer the Gorillas story, myself.

I'll check out Meitte's site. I'm a big fan of podcasts. They are actually much more work for me than reading is. I find it takes much more effort to concentrate on listening than it does on reading, and it takes longer as you mention, too. But I do enjoy them on the way home from work after a tiring day.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I read The Life You Save May Be Your own a couple of months ago, and it never occurred to me that the carpenter might stand for something religious. Hmm. Your post makes me want to reread the story so I can analyze it some more.

Also, thanks for linking to Meitte's podcasts. I'm checking her website out right now.

Mel u said...

C. B. James-of the two stories, Enoch for sure is the wildest one-I understand what you mean on podcasts requiring more and for sure a different kind of experience

Darlyn (It is your move Mr Dickens) Flannery O'Connor was very into the theology of Catholicism-I hope you will enjoy the podcast webpage