[…] Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still […]
But true extremity, unlike true extremism, is rare in life. That holds across all domains, moral, aesthetic, and otherwise. And that is what Gaige gets right. Kennedy belongs, as I began by saying, to the relatively small category of truly bad-news protagonists, entire actionable rungs down the ladder from your average Beleaguered Dude. And yet his presence there always seems contingent, his badness provisional. He confounds our moral judgment, not just because he is sympathetic or deluded or because his crimes are modest and strange, but because—and this is the crucial point—in real life and the literature that reflects it, genuine moral judgment should almost always be confounding. We know there is a line out there somewhere. We know it is to the right of the tangerine and to the left of the trunk of the car.
—Kathryn Schulz on Amnity Gaige’s novel, Shroder
When I first encountered “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” I read it the way many people do when they first encounter the story—a kind of social satire that veers over into random violence, plus a little spasm of hard-to-sort-through theology at the end. But when you spend more time with it, it becomes clear the story is a hugely powerful acting-out of a theme O’Connor said was crucial to her work: the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.
Writers talk a lot about epiphanies—what O’Connor, in her Catholic tradition, called “grace”—in short stories. But I think we’re tyrannized by a misunderstanding of Joyce’s notion of the epiphany. That stories should toodle on their little track toward a moment where the characters understand something they didn’t understand before—and, at that moment, they’re transformed into better people.
Suddenly Billy understood that his grandmother had always gone through a lot of difficult things, and he resolved he would never treat her that way again.
This kind of conversion notion is based on a very comforting idea—that if only we had sufficient information, we wouldn’t act badly. And that’s one of the great things about what The Misfit tells the Grandmother in the line I like so much. He’s not saying that a near-death experience would have turned her into a good woman. He’s saying it would take somebody threatening to shoot her every minute of her life.
In other words, these conversion experiences don’t stick—or they don’t stick for very long. Human beings have to be re-educated over and over and over again as we swim upstream against our own irrationalities. Now, O’Connor really believes that we can flood, momentarily, with the kind of grace that epiphany is supposed to represent. But I think she also believes that we’re essentially sinners. She’s saying: Don’t think for a moment that because you’ve had a brief instant of illumination, and you suddenly see yourself with clarity, that you’re not going to transgress two days down the road.
It’s OK to feel like an idiot going in as long as you don’t sound like an idiot coming out.
Our Father, which art in Heaven, yes, so infinitely far away that no one knows where You are, almost nowhere, give us this day just a few crumbs to eat in the name of Thy Glory, and forgive us if we can’t pay the dealer and our creditors and let us not, above all, be tempted to be happy, for Thine is the Kingdom.
I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And mother. And God.
The reader’s been left behind. Everybody talks about the writer’s feeling and the writer’s expression and the writer’s experience, and, you know, I don’t give a fuck how the writer feels. I want a fucking book that I can be in love with. I want a book that I’ll reread seventeen times. That’s what I want. And that has nothing to do with how I fucking feel. If I cared about how I felt I wouldn’t have written this fucking book in the first place. It was too hard to write. I needed the money or I wouldn’t have done it. Swear to God, I would not write these books if they didn’t pay me. But that said, once I’m committed to it and once I’m going to put my name on it, I feel like I ought to try not to bore the dog fuck out of people. If people are nice enough to buy my book, it’s like, let’s just try not to make them pitch forward with boredom. I’m so sick of reading boring books.