A Place Where We Can Talk

By Brian Volck

2350462798_5608b3bbd5_m“Somewhere is better than anywhere.”
—Flannery O’Connor

In my sophomore year of college, Professor Karanikolas took a semester to tear apart my writing—which until then I thought quite good—and rebuild it into something worth reading. He returned many of my early essays with marginal comments like, “Oh my God,” and “You’ve made the best of a very bad business here.” But the reeducation process was a painful necessity if I was ever to become a writer, and I’m grateful for those many hard lessons.

One of my later essays that semester included a sentence (the content of which I’ve long ago forgotten) that, by itself, would have been embarrassingly trite. In the margin, though, the professor wrote in red ink pen, “You had to do a lot of writing beforehand to say this.” [Read more...]

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist: An Interview with Daniel Taylor

By Caitlin Mackenzie 14288135_05fd9e848a_m

Daniel Taylor’s recent novel, Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, is a postmodern “whodunit” mystery that asks whether we discover truth or create it. Caitlin Mackenzie, of Wipf and Stock Publishers, talked to Daniel about the utility of detective fiction, the inspiration for his characters and landscape, and what spurred him to write his first novel after thirty years of nonfiction and short fiction.

Caitlin Mackenzie: Although you have published short fiction, your previous books have been nonfiction and this is your first novel. What inspired the genre move? How does fiction operate in a way for you that nonfiction does or cannot?

Daniel Taylor: The common denominator to almost all my writing over thirty years has been story telling—analyzing it and doing it. It does not feel greatly different to me to move between nonfiction and fiction. Memoir, for instance, uses all the devices and strategies of fiction—from scene to plot to dialogue. And we know how much invention goes into even recounting our memories. The biggest change is the absence in fiction of any remembered event to serve as a guide and limit to one’s imagination. Literally anything goes in fiction and that makes it both easier and harder. [Read more...]

Hazel Motes Is Out of Time

wisebloodTCM broadcast John Huston’s film version of Wise Blood yesterday, and I wound up watching it again. The whole movie is available on YouTube, so there was no need for me to delay my plans for two hours. I did it anyway.

I wanted to see some perfect casting—Brad Dourif, Mary Nell Santacroce, and Ned Beatty, to name just a few—and Huston’s low-budget cinematography. The story, set in post-World War II, is shot in 1970s Georgia, and the blend of the earlier and later dates gives a timelessness to the production, one I think Flannery O’Connor, author of the novel upon which the film is based,  would appreciate.

[Read more...]

Thinking About Poverty

homeless-man-sleeping-with-his-bible1What better time than Advent to ponder what poverty means? After all, Christ became poor for our sakes, emptying himself of his divinity as he emptied himself into our humanity.

So what does poverty mean? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Poverty (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary):

1a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions; b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property; 2: scarcity, dearth 3a: debility due to malnutrition; b: lack of fertility (of the soil).

[Read more...]

Only God is an Atheist, Part 2

It was not out of sheer flattery that Thomas Merton compared Flannery O’Connor to Sophocles, for the things at which she stared were the very pulp and pith of humanity. Her ability to express metaphysical profundities through her native vernacular is nearly as impressive as the profundities themselves. For it is one thing to express sadness with the objective correlative of a weeping violet; it is another to express the Noumenon by way of a folksy, backwoods serial killer.

In yesterday’s post, I commented on the young O’Connor’s journal to God, published in the September 16, 2013 edition of The New Yorker, insofar as it concerned her prayers about writing. Today, I’ll comment on some other aspects of the journal.

On Prayer:

Permeating both O’Connor’s correspondence and this journal is a candor about her spiritual limitations. Her thoughts about the four aspects of prayer reveal an undeveloped soul that she seeks to mature, but finds herself incapable of achieving:

Prayers should be composed I understand of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication…. It is the adoration of You, dear God, that most dismays me. I cannot comprehend the exaltation that must be due You.

She worries that her assent to adore is only intellectual, a dispassionate fiat. God must even provide the grace to adore him, she acknowledges, mystified. Still, if that is the way it must be, she asks:

Give me the grace to adore You with the excitement of the old priests when they sacrificed a lamb to You. Give me the grace to adore You with the awe that fills Your priests when they sacrifice the Lamb on our altars.

However close she came to that attitude, none can doubt the transfixion of the protagonists in Parker’s Back, The Artificial Nigger, and Wise Blood, all of whom exalt their God with scorched eyes.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X