One cannot get through a Flannery O’Connor story without encountering the strangeness of God. As she said, the greatest dramas involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Her short story “Revelation” startles with its final vision of a field of living fire. The vast hordes of souls rumbling toward heaven, the battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs, are a queerly beautiful sight. And then the words, “In the woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.” Here is a spiritual reality, glorious and disturbing, which my comfortable Christian categories cannot contain.
Flannery lamented that our secular society understands the religious mind less and less, that people who believe vigorously in Christ are wholly odd to most readers. It becomes more and more difficult in America to make belief believable, yet this is what she wanted to do.
My husband, Charles, has always been a Flannery O’Connor fan, and he introduced me to her personal correspondence. Flannery’s letters reveal a warm, witty, probing woman—nothing like the stern author I’d imagined from her violent stories. She discusses manuscripts she’s rewriting, the books she’s reading, a funny encounter with the telephone repairman, a promise to send more peacock feathers, news of Cousin Katie, complaints about the “idiot legislature,” and an account of a funeral. Throughout the 596 pages, there is a great deal of theology. Flannery insists that she is not a mystic and does not lead a holy life, yet she unapologetically displays her faith: a life of continually turning away from egocentricity and toward God.
— Melinda V Inman (@MelindaVInman) September 18, 2017