Saturday, March 12, 2011

the vioLENT bear it away

If you read her, she will stick to your bones. But first, she will burn away your flesh. It would seem a timely reading for Lent then, the season of ash heaps and dwelling in dark places. The Lenten season and the works of Flannery O’Connor, a Southern Catholic novelist whose oft misunderstood body of writing is deeply grotesque and violent, are both repelling to the first touch; the lips singe and the taste is bitter, unwanted. But swallowed down, taken into the whole of things, into the whole person, this tandem pair of observing Lent and reading O’Connor can absorb into the blood like liquid life — allowing you to see, not clearly or all at once, but into the distance, to things that are hidden, the stuff of prophets.

Flannery O’Connor wrote stories that explored the very worst in humanity. She was interested in that moment when grace is offered, but often rejected. She writes, “For me [the gravest concern] is always the conflict between an attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times.” Her stories are violent and dark, the grace moments hard to see and understand. At first reading, you may wonder if the descent is worth the affliction. But wait for it...

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