Flannery O’Connor
By: David Smay | Categories: HiLo Heroes

FLANNERY O’CONNOR (1925-64) reigns as the best American short story writer of the second half of the twentieth century, but her ascendancy — over, for example, Carson McCullers and Truman Capote, her fellow heirs to Faulkner’s Southern Gothic — was by no means a given. Contemporary critics were flummoxed by such intelligence and talent coupled to such lurid tales. Unlike McCullers and Capote, she wasn’t cosmopolitan; the only makeup she wore was red lipstick, and because she didn’t smoke she nibbled Nilla Wafers at the typewriter. In fact, she never escaped Georgia, except for a brief interlude during which she practically inaugurated the Iowa Writer’s Conference, before spending time in residence at Yaddo (Argonaut Folly alert: Patricia Highsmith was there, too, writing Strangers on a Train). And then there’s the theologically stringent nature of her fiction: O’Connor liked to joke that she wasn’t just Catholic, but a 13th-century one. Her grotesques, sketched with dry-point irony, are often heresies made flesh: white trash Jansenists struggling against the author’s religious orthodoxy. Though a comic writer, her purpose was deadly serious: nothing less than the human soul was at stake, and grace was like to make you burn out your eyes with lye.


Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday.

READ MORE about the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).

READ MORE HiLo Hero shout-outs.

SUBSCRIBE to HiLo Hero updates via Facebook.

SHARE this post, by clicking on the toolbar below.



David Smay is the co-editor of two books about pop music, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, and Lost in the Grooves. He's also the author of Swordfishtrombones, the 33 1/3 series entry on Tom Waits. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.