Flannery O’Connor was a 20th century Catholic Southern writer of many short stories and novels, including A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Parker’s Back, The Displaced Person, and more. Her influence on modern fiction and her deep Catholic faith are extraordinary! She was born on March 24, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia and died on August 3, 1964 in Milledgeville, GA. Here are 16 amazing quotes from her and her writings.
1. “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
Truth is Truth is Truth is Truth, no matter if we can or do accept it.
2. “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”
Chew on that. We see and experience every mode of being and emotion as children and that formation stays with us the rest of our lives.
3. “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”
Here, she is commenting on the vocation of the writer as storyteller and as one who helps the intangible become tangible.
4. “I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”
A little taste of her wit!
5. “The basis of art is truth, both in matter and mode.”
Everything that it truly art, has a foundation of truth both in its contents and in how it is delivered. This goes for absolutely every medium of art.
6. “I write to discover what I know.”
Often, we can’t quite understand exactly what we believe until we write it out. This is why journaling is a good exercise.
7. “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.”
You can’t just have a casual encounter with art. You make lay with it, wrestle with it, dissect it, see it, try to understand it. Art will not just tell you what it is about, but it will invite you to discover for yourself.
8. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”
This is a play on John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” except we see some of Flannery’s wit and wisdom entwined. Knowing the truth sets us apart from the rest of the world. Knowing the truth changes us. Knowing the truth not only frees us from the bonds of this world, but makes us appear different to the world, makes us seem odd. And that’s a very good thing.
9. “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.”
She again addresses the vocation of writer as a mirror of reality made for people to see themselves and their condition in. The writer is not only a transmitter but an agent of transformation.
10. “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
We don’t want to change! Much less do we ever want to find ourselves in pain. But sometimes the pain of change is necessary and good and afterwards, we find ourselves even better than before. Don’t resist God’s grace! Just ask Him for more!
11. “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”
The past is over, our dreams for our futures are just figments of our imaginations, and the only good the present does is to propel us further.
12. “People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.”
Again on the vocation of being a writer, she is saying that the writer and reader are ones who, primarily, are filled with hope about our world. Hope that it can be better, hope that we can be better, hope that this world is but a mere shadow of the life to come.
13. “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”
Love who you are at all stages in your life but don’t settle, you can always be better and be more.
14. “Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.”
The person who needs God to be a strict authoritarian cannot see the little joys and humors in life because it flies in the face of the authoritarianism he projects. But the person who loves God for who he is and tries to understand him more and more each day is the person who can look at the little hiccups of life and see God.
15. “There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his sense tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.”
Christ was a storyteller. He often used parables to teach the people about himself and the kingdom. Writers take up this mantle in helping to draw readers further into the mystery of life.
16. “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”
We must learn to look at all of these events with the eyes of God, to see how they move and shape us and conform us ever more closely to Christ, our ultimate love and destination.