Good Things Out of Nazareth: The Uncollected Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Friends

Edited by Benjamin B. Alexander. Convergent, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-57506-1
Alexander, a Franciscan University of Steubenville English and humanities professor, presents a fascinating set of Flannery O’Connor’s correspondence. Beyond recreating the flavor of the Southern Catholic intellectual subculture which O’Connor inhabited, the compilation is highlighted by gems from O’Connor’s writing mentor, Caroline Gordon. Recognizing O’Connor’s talent early on, Gordon sets about pushing O’Connor to sharpen her prose, study James Joyce, and develop an “elevated” tone to complement her regional dialect. O’Connor fans will especially prize Gordon’s detailed critiques of such celebrated works as the novel Wise Blood and short story “Good Country People.” While O’Connor’s milieu can seem intimidatingly insular, the volume allows readers to feel closer to the writer, by glimpsing O’Connor’s struggles with lupus, which sometimes leaves her bedridden or walking on crutches, and by hearing her famously strong Georgian accent in the colloquialisms she sprinkles throughout the letters—congratulating author Thomas F. Gossett on receiving a positive Time review, she comments “better to have those people for you than agin [against].” Alexander makes a few odd editing choices, such as including a surprising amount of material about O’Connor’s fellow Southern Catholic author, and Caroline Gordon mentee, Walker Percy. On the whole, however, this is an important addition to the knowledge of O’Connor, her world, and her writing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/17/2019
Release date: 10/15/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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