Saturday, April 17, 2021

2021 - 59 - Everything That Rises Must Converge; Flannery O'Connor

 


TITLE/AUTHOR:  Everything That Rises Must Converge; Flannery O'Connor

PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

YEAR PUBLISHED: 1965

GENRE: Fiction / Literary / Short Stories

FORMAT:  Trade Paperback LENGTH: 269 pp

SOURCE:  My shelves

SETTING(s):  US, (New South)


ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A short story collection that might shock you as well as make you smile with some hot topics like race, faith and morality.

BRIEF REVIEW:   This was an enlightening collection of (9) short stories that I was easily captivated by. The writing and subject matter in most stories was so different from anything I've read in a long while. The collection was written in the early 60s and published after the author's death.  With themes like faith, race, morality and death.  Six of the nine stories speak of dying and death and most exhibit some form of prejudice or downright racism.  Despite the serious topics, O'Connor's writing style and scenarios she created often made me smile.

My favorite was the title story: Everything That Rises Must Converge.  In this story, Mrs. Chestny and her son Julian live in 1960s New South,  and have conflicting views on desegregation now that the laws have begun to change.  Mrs. Chestny has a weight problem and takes the bus to the YMCA in an attempt to exercise and trim down but, now that integration is in effect she is nervous about riding the bus.  There is a scene where she wears a big fancy hat and is all prim and proper riding the bus to go to the YMCA when a black woman on the bus is wearing the exact same hat.  There is an incident when they get off the bus where Mrs C. insults the black woman and her young boy and the offended hits her with her purse in retaliation causing Mrs. C  a fatal medical event.   I loved the writing style where the reader got to see the happenings from a 3rd party POV but, is also privy to son Julian's outrage of his mother's behavior.  One final thought was that although Julian, a college graduate, saw himself as more progressive in thought when it came to how times were changing, deep down he wasn't very self-aware and actually pretty small-minded and rather petty.  

Most all of these stories seem to feature characters who were racist yet fail to see this in themselves.  I thought that the author had an amazing gift of pointing out irony and the absurdities of life. I definitely plan to read more by this author and, I actually own a few more of her books. Here is a LINK to my review of another of her short-story collections: A Good Man is Hard to Find and other stories which I read and reviewed in 2012 and also enjoyed.

Flannery O'Connor grew up in devout Catholic family in rural Georgia. Sadly she passed away at the age of 39 in 1964 of a form of Lupus, the same disease that took her father's life when Flannery was a teen. I wonder how her writing style might have changed after Civil Rights had she lived.

RATING:  4.5/5 stars

MEMORABLE QUOTES:  

"Will you for God's sake get off that subject?" Julian said. When he got on a bus by himself, he made it a point to sit by a Negro, in reparation as it was for his mother's sins.

"Mrs. May winced. She thought the word Jesus should be kept inside the church building like other words inside the bedroom."    

"She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true."   

23 comments:

  1. Those sound like good stories and those quotes were good!

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    1. It felt rather strange reading these stories written 60 years ago and, sad as well to see racism is still a real thing these days.

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  2. This author is new to me, the book sounds very different from what I usually read.

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    1. I would have loved to see how her writing might have changed if she hadn't died so young.

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  3. I've not read anything by Flannery O'Connor, but came across this New Yorker article after Googling her. I don't think she's for me.

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    1. I know the racism is still so prevalent today, even though it's fiction 60 years ago.

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  4. This collection sounds very topical even though it was published in 1965. I can't decide whether I've heard of the author or not.

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    1. I have 2 other of her full length novels (unread) plus her biography which I would like to read.

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  5. Racism is something that makes me very annoyed so I think I better steer clear. There is so much of it all around us, I despair that this will ever end.

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    1. I have to agree with you Mystica, why can't people just "live and let live?"

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  6. I think I have this on my kindle. I'd never heard about how young she was when she died. Very sad as well as interesting to me as I have a form of lupus.

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    1. Oh sorry to read about the Lupus Mary:(

      It did feel weird to read some of these stories today. I do like her wiring though.

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  7. I am embarrassed to admit that I have never read Flannery O'Connor. Perhaps I'll make this one my first.

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    1. Now that surprises me Dorothy - your reading choices are so varied and diverse.

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  8. Ok. Two confessions. I always thought Flannery O'Connor was a man. How embarrassing. And, two, I had no idea she died so young, so it's even more impressive that her work is so well received!

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  9. It's been a long time since I read that famous collection, and you make clear that it continues to have an interesting resonance with our society. "Stuck in the sixties" can have all kinds of meanings, can't it?

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. You are right "stuck in the 60s to me means - aging hippie :)

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  10. Wow. I think I would like this collection bases on the one fave story you shared.

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  11. I've sometimes wondered how her writing would have changed if she had lived long enough to see the world change, too. I don't think I've read this collection, even though I own the Library of America volume of her collected works. I need to fix that soon.

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  12. Yes, the world has changed since the 1960s but, we still have a way to go. I do love the irony in her stories.

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  13. I too wonder what more this author would have written if she had lived a bit longer. She seemed quite a writer & voice!

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