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Jessica Hooten Wilson tackles Flannery O’Connor

Dr. Hooten Wilson, leading a rousing reading of The Screwtape Letters

The University of Dallas’ Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson, who once dined with the Korrektiv Kollektiv on a particularly memorable night in New Orleans, and who has since become something of a shining star in the firmament of American Catholic letters, is THIS VERY EVENING giving a little talk on her latest project: preparing Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel Why Do the Heathen Rage? for publication. Holy crow, as they say.

Wow.

I almost think the opening scene of Nocturnal Animals is there to scare the moralists away via aesthetic assault. (It also serves a narrative/thematic function, sure, but…) Because after that, it plays out with the blunt trauma moral force of a Flannery O’Connor story, only without the promise of grace. Maybe it was the tequila watching, but I liked it a lot.

Let’s try that again.

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St. Flannery

Flannery O'Connor and the divine stampLawrence Downes, writing in the New York Times last Thursday, complains that the new ninety-three-cent postage stamp doesn’t show Flannery O’Connor as “the 20th-century master of the short story, the ‘hermit novelist’ who fused her art and life as a Southerner and a Roman Catholic with stories that are shocking, hilarious and often bloody.” I kind of agree. But on the other hand this could be an image of Flannery O’Connor in heaven, and that seems all right to me. Plus, beggars can’t be choosers.

Pious Editions and Other Accretions…

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Regarding Ms. O’Connor and her struggle with the ultimate tension of any fictionist – nature and grace – Paul Elie has a new shot soaring across the secular bow here.

 

 

 

Gas chambers in the Althouse

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In which the esteemed law prof and perspicacious culture critic ponders an interesting O’Connor-Percy connection.

Insert Trite but Incisive Point about Whupping the Yankees

Can’t Get Enough of Drinking in Buildings

Friend of Korrektiv (if only because we consider ourselves friends with her) Professor Jessica Hooten Wilson is teaching in Prague, or has recently. Flannery O’Connor! Walker Percy! For the latter, see also here.

More triangulation of a sort…

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So two Polish Churchmen and an Irish American fiction writer walk into a controversy and the first Pole compounds the controversy started by the second Pole by turning to the second Pole and saying, “Lack of emotional approach to the human person – seemingly substituted by the notion of the ‘quality of life’ – a symptom of our times.”

HT/BL

 

Slog, Korrektiv, slog!

“Did you get the article I sent you?” asked my father.

“No.”

“It’s about the new book of Flannery O’Connor’s letters.”

“It’s not letters, Dad, it’s a prayer journal. It’s getting noticed everywhere, which is really cool.”

“No, I’m talking about the book of letters.” [Good Things Out of Nazareth: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Caroline Gordon, edited by Benjamin Boatwright Alexander]

“Oh. No, I hadn’t heard about that.”

But my mother had. She saw an interview with Alexander on EWTN.

Hat tip to Greg Camacho, who sent a link to this fine radio interview about the prayer journal, featuring editor Bill Sessions, noted Catholic lit guy Paul Elie, and Carlene Bauer, who got the jump on Korrektiv Press’s Lives of Famous Catholics by doing a fictionalized version of the quasi-romance between O’Connor and the poet Robert Lowell. (Yaddo, Yaddo!) Bonus Percy mention: Sessions says he has letters from our man as well.

Anyway, let’s write some stuff and publish it. You know, like all these fine people did.

A good book may not be so hard to find as a good man.

O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal is out November 12.

Discoveries

At Dauphine Street Books (open late!)…

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Potter had the big find – I’ll let him tell about, but I was pleased to discover this:

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From Korrektiv’s Little-known Fact Dept.

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Flannery O’Connor is the Toothe Faerie.

I have proof here in this tooth-a-gram to my third youngest daughter.

Flannery and Me

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The New Mexico Nurse (long since transplanted here to La Mesa, where all good people live) was kind enough to email and let me know that the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine carried a collection of excerpts from the grad-school (some place in Iowa?) journal of Flannery O’Connor. The entries are addressed to God. I haven’t read them yet (waiting ’til I can savor), except for the line “Please help me to get down under things and find where You are,” which naturally jumped out at me, and the last bit, which I couldn’t help but notice:

My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me. And the feeling I egg up writing here lasts approximately half an hour and seems a sham. I don’t want any of this artificial superficial feeling stimulated by the choir. Today I have proved myself a glutton – for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There is nothing left to say of me.

Isn’t it fun to find you have things in common with one of your heroes? Scratch “oatmeal cookies” and replace “half an hour” with “five minutes,” and it could be me writing that entry! Just not, you know, in the New Yorker.

Classic Fiction, New Fiction, Wiseblood Fiction

Elsewhere in the rough-and-tumble cyberspace of new publishing, Wiseblood Books has been moving some books. By my count they’re getting close to two dozen classic titles, with an original novel on the way.

Wiseblood Books is a newly-launched publishing line particularly favorable toward works of fiction, poetry, and philosophy that render truths with what Flannery O’Connor called an unyielding “realism of distances.” Such works find redemption in uncanny places and people; wrestle us from the tyranny of boredom; mock the pretensions of respectability; engage the hidden mysteries of the human heart, be they sources of either violence or courage; articulate faith and doubt in their incarnate complexity; dare an unflinching gaze at human beings as “political animals”; and suffer through this world’s trials without forfeiting hope. We seek contemporary fiction in the vein of such popular classics as Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, Graham Greene’s “entertainments,” Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Cather’s O Pioneers!, and P.D. James’ The Children of Men or as demanding as Dostoevsky’s Demons, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Melville’s Moby-Dick, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Although we’ve already produced a small library of classics, which includes Notes From Underground, The Sickness Unto Death, and Three Detective Stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Wiseblood Books will release its first work of contemporary fiction, The Unfinished Life of N., on October 1st, 2013. You can learn more, follow the blog, buy books, submit manuscripts, or donate here: www.wisebloodbooks.com

The Unfinished Life of N. by Micah Cawber (Coming October 1st, 2013): In the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, The Unfinished Life of N. scrutinizes the quiet ambitions of normal people, their everyday fictions concerning others’ and their own humanity and goodness, as it follows Nafula, the innocent but not naïve protagonist, from the backwoods of Wisconsin to AIDS-stricken regions of Africa, and, after a rehabilitation program at a Mental Health home, through an encounter that, paradoxically, catalyzes hope and an openness to the terrible speed of mercy.

Dinner with Waifu (嫁との晩餐)

Flannery O'Connor Dinner

Supping with the beloved on an important anniversary.

Join the fray…

USA. New York. 1950.

Where they discuss the not-so-usual suspects – including you and you and you and you and and you and you and…!

 

Sex and Fiction

The flow of the bottle led me to Jacques Barzun’s essay “Venus at Large: Sexuality and the Limits of Literature.” I was looking for a way to bolster my smudged pontifications on political mumbo-jumbo over a Manhattan on the porch and instead found Barzun’s sober judgment on an earler topic.

Discuss or not, it would be interesting to reconcile, a la the Catholic imagination, the following two quotes:

The student of literature is instinctively loath to set theoretical limits to the art he studies, and so, surely does the writer feel about he art he practices – unless he is a mere follower of convention. But in recognizing this axiomatic freedom, it is one thing to say that sexuality, like any other human power, deserves limitless literary expression; it is quite another to say that literature should find room for ever more detailed descriptions of the sex act. ….At first, then, sexuality, and, later, sex are literary devices to restore respect for instinct, to tap a source of power which can at once abate the disease of extreme self-consciousness and counteract the stupefying effect of the world of machines. For sex is in a curious way the most and the least personal of man’s activities. Used in the novel, it could rebuild the whole man and show his oneness with all men. Again, if literature was to criticize life and lead the revolt against convention, it needed a new element that was indeed elemental and yet was instantly felt as intimate and defining. That element was the sexual, and since in art what is novel in conception requires a striking embodiment, sexuality was bound to move steadily toward an ultimate form in the sex scene.” – Jacques Barzun, etc.

And our Grand Dame of the Grotesque in her 1957 essay “The Church and the Fiction Writer”:

“Part of the complexity of the problem for the Catholic fiction writer will be the presence of grace as it appears in nature, and what matters for him is that his faith not become detached from his dramatic sense and from his vision of what-is. No one in these days, however, would seem more anxious to have it become detached than those Catholics who demand that the writer limit, on the natural level, what he allows himself to see.”

Run, Rabbit, run!