No Ideas But In Things…

Whether a writer is his own subject or not, he is the filter through which the fiction passes. Flannery O’Connor may never have written about herself but everything she wrote is unmistakably hers. One could perhaps question whether a realist epistemology is adequate for any kind of fiction. It is surely wrong to think of knowing as knowing our knowing, but the writer, however objective his subject matter, is telling it as it is in the sense of how he at least sees it. But even if all his imaginings involve himself, this does not mean that his self-imaginings need amount to much.

More masterly musings from the immortal mind of the mortal Magister McInerny.


  1. Churchill says

    I liked Flannery O’Connor when I was young, but went off her by the time I was 30. Should I look at her again?

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Yes, but her work is currently unavailable in G.B. If you’d like we can mail you a copy in a care package with some toilet paper and canned fruit.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Thanks, JOB, that’s a fine article. At first I wondered why McInerny had taken so long to get around to American Pastoral … then I reached the end and saw that it was from 1998. Odd to think of putting Roth on the Chekov side of the ledger, but on reflection makes sense. McInerny doesn’t mention Percy, but I think he belongs there as well. As for a “realist epistemology,” I think it probably has something to do with why I have trouble finishing Tom Wolfe’s books. And yes, Church ill, you should take another look at O’Connor … I was just thinking of “Parker’s Back” earlier today as I regarded the tattoo “sleeves” of a lovely young waitress setting a plate in front of me earlier today. It’s among the last things O’Connor wrote, and a great place to start.

    • Quin,

      Funny. I think that inability to reach home port has been the criticism of many a Wolfe fan. I’ll admit that except for hearing “Man in Full” on audio tape and part of “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” I’ve never read any of his fiction. But I’ve gobbled up practically every piece of nonfiction he’s ever written.

      Yes, Mrs. Winston, I concede that too much O’Connor at once can tend to put you in a psychological tailspin. A friend, whose opinion I respect on literary matters, once said that reading O’Connor was like reading spiritual exericises from a particularly clever spiritual director. If he wanted that sort of thing, he said, he’d stick with Loyola; what he wanted was a good story – not a good manipulation.

      Not sure I totally agree with him, but I can see why one would want to take O’Connor in small doses all the same.

      That said, I was driving home from work last night, thinking about your criticism, and wondered if it didn’t have something to do with the lack of resonance: there is the possibility that O’Connor’s grotesques are all the more so because the idea of the “local community” is fast disappearing from the earth. I will post on this idea in the future; but lets face it, in the major metropolitan areas, there’s nothing but diversity, with little to recommend authentic communitas.


  4. Churchill says

    I found her terribly bitter after a while. It seemed a psychological flaw rather than anything more helpful.

  5. Churchill says

    Too many grotesques, but with less warmth than Carson McCullers. The reference to the waitress reminds me that at the time I started disliking her I began to read Raymond Carver.

  6. Jonathan Webb says

    I thought you gave up Carver?

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