Flannery O’Connor “My Dear God”

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-...

English: Portrait of American writer Flannery-O’Connor from 1947. Picture is cropped and edited from bigger picture: Robie with Flannery 1947.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Followers of this blog who have taken the trouble to wade through my whimsical though approximately accurate “About” page will have discovered that I am a great admirer of the short stories and novels of Flannery O’Connor.  We are co-religionists (Egads, Catholics!) and I have for many years sensed in her work a kindred spirit that goes beyond this, yay, a spirit that extends its wide swath unto the swale and swamp marshes of style and humor, not to mention an appetite for impaling in fiction the morally reprehensible, mentally flaccid and feckless sorts who have screwed up their own lives wholesale and hence want to screw up everyone else’s life as well.

Apropos of all of the foregoing, I would like to draw attention to and commend for close reading some excerpts from O’Connor’s youthful journals that appeared in the Sept. 16, 2013 New Yorker under the title “My Dear God.”   Written when she was twenty-one and a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1946, they show her struggling mightily with both faith and the writer’s craft.  Her wit and humor come through loud and clear even as she wrestles with, in the rawest, most emotionally revealing and honest fashion, the major issues confronting the writer of faith at the outset of her career.

I would go so far as to say that these excerpts could be used as a critical “key” for understanding what she attempted in her fiction, and indeed what she actually accomplished and bequeathed to the rest of us, in her all too short time here.

The journal entries all begin with her addressing God, variously “My dear God” or “Dear God.”  That ought to tell you something, eh?

As a teaser and foretaste of the delights in these excerpts, I will leave you with the following thought and give Flannery O’Connor herself the last word here:

No one can be an atheist who does not know all things.  Only God is an atheist.  The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons.

[Believe, you see, is a transitive verb. Therein lies the rub ;)]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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8 Responses to Flannery O’Connor “My Dear God”

  1. Pingback: Flannery O’ Connor, Just Like Me | thejackieblueshow

  2. Lonie Fulgham says:

    Holy cow, The Violent Bear it Away is wonderful. I can’t put it down.


    • I understand. It’s a complex novel, sometimes a little confusing (about where O’Connor is coming from on certain issues), but repays a close reading and much reflection. Those characters! Tarwater! Good grief.


      • Lonie Fulgham says:

        I almost wish I knew less about her personal beliefs because she is cleary, and subtly, making the distinctions between the two worlds Tarwater inhabits (so far) morally (not sure that’s the right word) ambiguous. I’ll have to see how she wraps it up to come to a definitive conclusion (yeah right!:-).


        • The novel has allegorical qualities and more than a little depth theology in its modus operandi. Readers with only a glancing superficial acquaintance with Christianity are usually confounded by it, throw up their hands in disgust. Among other things, I think she was drawing a beam on a reading audience of backsliders, lip service moralizers and that sort. Those who felt their noisy pronouncements abt having been “saved” saved them from the necessity of doing absolutely anything further, anything else in this regard for God or man 😉 That is only a sliver of what the novel means or suggests, and I am not offering it here as analysis or critique or synopsis, only as some observations of my own, partial and incomplete.


  3. Pingback: Flannery O’Connor: A Self-Portrait | Margaret Langstaff

  4. Pingback: Flannery O’ Connor, Just Like Me | Author Edna Stewart: Deep Writings

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