April 5, 2010

My First Flannery

"'Lemme just have a piece of theter cake yonder,' he said, pointing to a half of pink and yellow cake on a round glass stand. 'I think I got something to do. I got to be going. Set it up there right next to him,' he said, indicating the customer reading the newspaper. He slide over the stools and began reading the outside sheet of the man's paper. While he ate the cake he read and felt himself surge with kindness and courage and strength."
--Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor
My first brush with Flannery O'Connor's work was a bit like eating cheesecake. I didn't enjoy it all that much, but seeing that I was stuck on the subway and there was no other dessert around, I begrudgingly ate it up, struck by its details more than usual as I stewed in my dislike.

This bit about the cake (above) is just about the sole bright spot in the fumbling ugliness of "religious investigation" this book is said to be. Her prose is technically flawless, which is disturbing enough in itself. But even more disturbing is how very consuming it is, for such a bleak story. I couldn't stop submitting myself to its pain. Kind of like that guy on 42nd street who shouts into a portable microphone about Jesus and redemption every single day. If you ever actually stop to listen, you may find yourself horrifically entranced. Reading this book is a little bit like that, I think.

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