aberration: Anthy and Utena in the Utena movie, dancing in the flooded rose garden above their reflection. (we shall all be healed)
veronica ([personal profile] aberration) wrote2016-01-21 02:51 pm
Entry tags:

love should be full of anger

And then there's The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. I'd read A Good Man Is Hard to Find and a few of her other stories that weren't in that collection, so a lot of this was rereading. Though that led to a lot of "was that… especially upsetting... or did I not come in... prepared..." (The Lame Shall Enter First, I don't know.) Reading so many of O'Connor's stories at once also reinforced what seem to be her favorite conventions, which include:
- Underachieving grown men living with their mothers.
- Young women and girls who are intelligent, ugly, bookish, "precocious," cruel, and very clear author stand-ins.
- Middle-aged or older women so unable to deal with their reality that they feel temporally displaced. (This is not the best way to phrase it, and I'm no trying to write off racism as "unable to deal with their reality," but it does feel like a point that these women seem to be almost simultaneously in two spaces at once.)



And I've been writing and rewriting what else I want to say. I'm not from the South (and whatever such a large, over-encompassing term can mean, because where I'm from is not "the South," but where I'm from is also inevitably entwined with the reality or the ideal or the opposite-of-an-ideal of "the South.") I'm only Catholic as far as genealogy and baptism. O'Connor said that those in the North call anything that comes out of the South "grotesque" unless it actually is, in which case it's "realistic." It's hard for me not to think of a boy drowning in a baptismal river as grotesque, but not because it's tragic. Tragedy isn't by itself grotesque. It's because it also somehow feels beautiful, and that beauty is what makes it grotesque. I don't consider myself specifically religious, but I can connect with the way O'Connor writes religious experience as infusing "secular" life, while I seem to be told over and over that these are stark and separate. These experiences aren't always sweet or reassuring, but instead are sharp and painful, and I feel like sometimes where O'Connor is expressing grace I'm just feeling something raw, and personal, and as deeply mortal as possibly spiritual. And maybe where what I'm reading is the inevitability of human failure and shortcoming when severed from the spiritual (whether the temporally displaced women of Everything That Rises Must Converge or The Displaced Person or Revelation; or the devout, God-complexed atheist of The Lame Shall Enter First, or the ugly intellectual girls of Good Country People or A Temple of the Holy Ghost, I take away additionally or instead a capacity for self-reflection and self-criticism, something that sometimes feels lacking whether or not religion is involved. And sardonic humor and beauty and "grotesque" beauty are tied up in that. And this is getting very stream-of-consciousness.

Other Notes
- I did have a hard time following the Enoch stories.
- I know multiple men who love The Enduring Chill. But for an anthology filled with flawed characters, Asbury was up there with the ones I didn't really want to spend that much time with.
- But my favorites are still The River and The Life You Save May Be Your Own.