Sunday, August 28, 2005
BECAUSE IT'S SUNDAY
Because it's Sunday, let's spend a little time with the faith-filled, but clear eyed and mordantly funny Flannery O'Connor. Let's go out to see her peacocks while we wait for her to return from Mass. When she arrives, nourished by the sacrament that has sustained her through years of debilitating illness, she and her mother will serve up a proper Sunday dinner. The chicken will be fried to perfection and the biscuits will demand a lavish buttering.
But it is the conversation we have come for, a conversation that has largely languished since O'Connor's death from lupus in 1964. Though her stories will probably continue to be read and loved as long as fiction exists, what she wants us to talk about over dinner is not just literary trends. It's not the exigencies of the marketplace. It's the vision that underlies every novel, every short story, every poem, a vision that either elevates or demeans everyone who reads it.
"St. Augustine wrote that the things of this world pour forth from God in a double way: intellectually into the minds of angels and physically into the world of things. To the person who believes this, the physical, sensible world is good because it proceeds from a divine source. The artist usually knows this by instinct; his senses which are used to penetrating the concrete, tell him so. When Conrad said that his aim as an artist was to render the highest possible justice to the visible universe, he was speaking with the novelist's surest instinct. The artist penetrates the concrete world in order to find at its depths the image of its source, the image of ultimate reality. This in no way hinders his perception of evil but rather sharpens it, for only when the natural world is seen as good does evil become intelligible as a destructive force.
--Flannery O'Connor from "Mystery and Manners"