Until recently there were very few female writers on my shelf: one Margaret Atwood, a few Jane Austen, two Hitomi Kanehara. A few months ago it was pointed out to me that, as a woman and a writer, I should read more women writers. Makes sense. But I don't want to read about shopaholics, I'm not interested in boring affairs, and anything remotely as 'girl-power' as Sex and the City makes me both quite angry and fed up. Then one day someone suggested reading Flannery OConnor because, as said person pointed out, it's a good read for someone like me who enjoys darker reads. Perfect.
'Everything That Rises Must Converge' was on my course list last semester, so this was where I started. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. I devoured the story, relished it, and was all in a hurry to get through her Complete Stories. Probably the best collection of short stories I've ever read, it seems unfair to OConnor to review them all in one go. Really, I took take each individual story and make an entry for each, but it would take forever to do that justice.
Underlying OConnor's stories are many of the issues that concerned the 1950s American South. These are stories of white against black, black against white, religion, God, ethics and morality. Far from being 'preachy' or heavy stories, they're outrageous, darkly interesting and often very funny. There's something very Gothic about O'Connor's writing which features descriptions of the grotesque and delights in 'wrong' thoughts and doings of the characters. Many of the characters are racist, bigoted, or just completely egotistical, and yet there's a charm in them that's impossible to ignore. In short, there's something very clever going on in O'Connor's writing. It's dark, it's serious, it's ridiculous, it's comical and utterly fascinating.
I'm not sure I could say enough in just a blog entry about how amazing her Complete Stories are, but there's no reason to ignore her when she's offering such rich short tales. For the newbie to O'Connor, I'd suggest her most well-known stories such as 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' and 'Everything that Rises Must Converge' but if you're sure that you'll love it, the Complete Stories is a treasure to have.