Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
The stories collected in Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories are powerful, vividly narrated and masterfully crafted works of art. Yet despite those superlatives I now have absolutely no urge to read these stories again, nor any of O'Connor's other works.
For me, the problem is characterization and tone. At best, her characters are naive, selfish or indifferent, but at worst - which is most of the time - they are bitter, vindictive, ignorant, greedy and relentlessly cruel even to the point of being homicidal. As for tone, based on these stories it would seem that O'Connor thought very little of humanity and its potential for decency and redemption.
Don't get me wrong - I'm no Norman Vincent Peale or Forrest Gump, obsessed with positive thinking and staying on the sunny side of life. I happen to like dark fiction, which usually accurately reflects the oh-so-human shortcomings of our world. But even the darkest fiction has to have a least a glimmer of light to make it worthwhile, and I just don't see even the slightest glimmer in these overwhelmingly grim stories. O'Connor's title doesn't go far enough - not only is a good man, or woman, hard to find here, but it's damn near impossible.
O'Connor called them her "grotesques." She took a lot of abuse from people who thought such a "Catholic" writer should portray positive images of people. Ya write what ya have, I guess.
Posted by: Paul Lamb at Dec 21, 2009 9:06:17 AM