Didn’t think I could love Flannery O’Connor any more, and then I read her book Mystery and Manners. What a gem. Have you read it? I’m just going to leave you with a few quotes from the book, which is a collection of essays about writing fiction and art in general.
If you enjoy her fiction, she offers many helpful insights into her own writing (which can be challenging), and if you enjoy art (especially if you share her Christian beliefs), you will enjoy her profound thoughts intertwined with her dry humor.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”
Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.
“There is no excuse for anyone to write fiction for public consumption unless he has been called to do so by the presence of a gift. It is the nature of fiction not to be good for much unless it is good in itself.”
Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.
“Poorly written novels — no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters — are not good in themselves and are therefore not really edifying.”
The Christian novelist is distinguished from his pagan colleagues by recognizing sin as sin. According to his heritage, he sees it not as a sickness or an accident of the environment, but as a responsible choice of offense against God which involves his eternal future. Either one is serious about salvation or one is not. And it is well to realize that the maximum amount of seriousness admits the maximum amount of comedy.
Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe. One reason a great deal of our contemporary fictions is humorless is because so many of these writers are relativists and have to be continually justifying the actions of their characters on a sliding scale of values.