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Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
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Mystery and Manners (1969)

by Flannery O'Connor

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I'm always leery of posthumous collections of writing, especially when they're described as "uncollected occasional prose." This particular book contains a mish-mash of speeches, student workshop presentations, odd ruminations on Catholic fiction writers and their readers, and the standout essay at the beginning, "The King of the Birds." I would've been happy if I'd stopped after that one. But instead I plodded on, skipping over quite a bit, hoping for another winner that never came. O'Connor does make a few interesting observations about writing but a lot of it comes out sounding dated, given how much has changed in the literary sphere since she was writing. I'm skeptical that O'Connor would've approved of this collection, as she seems like she would've been the type to have very good reasons for publishing or not publishing a particular piece of writing. Certainly posthumous publication should be considered on a case-by-case basis, but in this case, I don't think leaving the majority of these pieces unpublished would've been considered a disservice to her readership. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
These essays are great: sharp, wry, and witty. My favorites by far were "The King of the Birds," "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," and "Writing Short Stories." The essays on religion's role in writing dragged for me--I found myself skimming them at points. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I always liked O'Connor's stories but when I read this collection of essays I felt I was in the same room with her and that she was talking directly to me. Much of the time she sounds like she's thinking out loud, trying out ideas and sharing idle thoughts that she's still shaping. But all her ideas are carefully formed and presented.
  SusanOleksiw | Aug 7, 2012 |
I don't think there's a need for any more books on faith & writing; O'Connor has wittily said it all. ( )
  alissamarie | Oct 25, 2009 |
I don't think there's a need for any more books on faith & writing; O'Connor has wittily said it all. ( )
  alissamarie | Oct 25, 2009 |
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Of course, I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.
The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet.  His problem is to find that location.
The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched.
There are two qualities that make fiction.  One is the sense of mystery and the other is the sense of manners.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374508046, Paperback)

At her death in 1964, O'Connor left behind a body of unpublished essays and lectures as well as a number of critical articles that had appeared in scattered publications during her too-short lifetime. The keen writings comprising Mystery and Manners, selected and edited by O'Connor's lifelong friends Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, are characterized by the directness and simplicity of the author's style, a fine-tuned wit, understated perspicacity, and profound faith.

The book opens with "The King of the Birds," her famous account of raising peacocks at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia. Also included are: three essays on regional writing, including "The Fiction Writer and His Country" and "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction"; two pieces on teaching literature, including "Total Effect and the 8th Grade"; and four articles concerning the writer and religion, including "The Catholic Novel in the Protestant South." Essays such as "The Nature and Aim of Fiction" and "Writing Short Stories" are widely seen as gems.

This bold and brilliant essay-collection is a must for all readers, writers, and students of contemporary American literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:49 -0400)

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