This is the second in a two part series on quotes from American novelist, short-story writer, and essayist Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964). An important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. O'Connor's writing also reflected her Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.
Here are some more of my favorite quotes from her (there were others in my previous post). Let me know which ones resonate with you.
Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.
Free will does not mean one will, but many wills conflicting in one man. Freedom cannot be conceived simply.
I don't think literature would be possible in a determined world. We might go through the motions but the heart would be out of it. Nobody could then 'smile darkly and ignore the howls.' Even if there were no Church to teach me this, writing two novels would do it. I think the more you write, the less inclined you will be to rely on theories like determinism. Mystery isn't something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge.
It's easier to bleed than sweat, Mr. Motes.
Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.
I have got, over the years, a sense of the immense sweep of creation, of the evolutionary process in everything, of how incomprehensible God must necessarily be to be the God of heaven and earth. You can’t fit the Almighty into your intellectual categories…. What kept me a skeptic [of secularism] in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read. If you want your faith, you have to work for it…. Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian skepticism.
I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.
The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience.
What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you fell you can't believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.
Grace changes us and change is painful.
A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.
No art is sunk in the self, but rather, in art the self becomes self-forgetful in order to meet the demands of the thing seen and the thing being made.
The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.
I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.
We are now living in an age which doubts both fact and value. It is the life of this age that we wish to see and judge.
The Catholic novelist in the South will see many distorted images of Christ, but he will certainly feel that a distorted image of Christ is better than no image at all. I think he will feel a good deal more kinship with backwoods prophets and shouting fundamentalists than he will with those politer elements for whom the supernatural is an embarrassment and for whom religion has become a department of sociology or culture or personality development.
Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.
Sickness is more instructive than a long trip to Europe.
The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
Those who have no absolute values cannot let the relative remain merely relative; they are always raising it to the level of the absolute.
The only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.
It is better to be young in your failures than old in your successes.
I am tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man brutal and sarcastic. The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.
The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.
When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business.
My subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil.
Satisfy your demand for reason but always remember that charity is beyond reason, and God can be known through charity.
I love a lot of people, understand none of them.
The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.
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.
I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption by Christ and that what I see in the world I see in relation to that.
Not sentimental love but true Charity is what is hard and endures.
As was usual with him, he began with the least important thing and worked around and in toward the center where the meaning was.
I write to discover what I know.