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Posts tagged "Flannery O’Connor"

Another Week Ends: A Heaven-Sent Car Crash, the Anti-Aging Taboo, Fearful but Trendy Parents, the Legacy of Flannery O'Connor, and Sending Books to Kids in Houston

Another Week Ends: A Heaven-Sent Car Crash, the Anti-Aging Taboo, Fearful but Trendy Parents, the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor, and Sending Books to Kids in Houston

1. An amazing story of reconciliation in the latest episode of Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight, the podcast DZ recommended in last week’s AWE. Every episode turns back the clock, diving into the past of a different person with unique resentments or grievances to air out.

The most recent episode is the story of Jesse, a man who at age twenty-one was t-boned by a car going 45mph. For a time he was legally dead, and seventeen days after the accident, he awoke from a coma half-paralyzed, expecting never again to walk, never again to drive. The life he once lived, his dreams, his…

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Do You Need a Receipt to Return a Christmas Miracle?

Do You Need a Receipt to Return a Christmas Miracle?

I’m quickly coming up to the two year anniversary of when I nearly, nearly, shouted a four letter word in a crowded auditorium. And it wasn’t fire. I was at a Christmas concert, and the organizers had thoughtfully placed magnets with handwritten Bible verses underneath all of our seats. At a certain point in the evening, they asked us to reach under and collect them. I did. That’s the moment I wanted to shout…um…not-fire.

The verse was for me, for that very moment. The Lord answers prayers. This particular evening, I really didn’t want him to. Like, at all. It meant…

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Just My (Christian) Imagination Running Away With Me

This article was originally posted by the John Jay Institute, as part of an online symposium it held on Christian Imagination a couple years back. It’s been lightly edited.

It’s embarrassingly difficult to find oneself largely without answers but with questions, especially in the context of beautiful reflections on art, liturgy, the imago dei, and other affectively-charged elements of the Christian imagination. For example, the question of the imagination’s being ‘fully redeemed’ is one that a stubbornly literal-minded person cannot quite wrap his head around. Awash in thoughts of family farms sold, inheritances forfeited, and next-of-kin pawning them back, such etymologically-constrained…

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Roughing Up an Isle of Dogs

The debut of the unbelievably delightful first trailer for The Isle of Dogs (which arrives in theaters on yours truly’s birthday – coincidence?) is as good an occasion as any for posting a few paragraphs from the Wes Anderson essay that opens Mockingbird at the Movies.

“The very mention of a religious dimension to Wes Anderson’s films may sound surprising, even bizarre. It is certainly not what he is known for. Critics praise his visual imagination, his attention to detail, his pet themes and oft-imitated (but never replicated) whimsy. They do not, as a group, gravitate toward spiritual language when discussing his movies. If anything, Wes has been criticized for the emotional distance of his dollhouse-like visions. The net effect of the fanciful scenery and mannered dialogue is to keep the viewer from fully entering into the picture, heart-wise, to say nothing of the spirit. Everything is so gloriously precise; it seems there is no room in a Wes Anderson film for any deity other than Wes Anderson.

While such a view may not be entirely unfounded, it does not account for the stories themselves, in particular the trilogy of The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. What emerges is something more akin to the fake Italian talk show interview with Wes that’s included on the Criterion edition of The Life Aquatic. Following a series of increasingly awkward exchanges, the befuddled host asks the director point- blank if he believes in God. Wes answers, “Eh, I think so. Yeah. I mean, roughly.”

By “roughly” he no doubt meant “approximately,” yet given the films in question he might as well have been using it in the physical sense. In Anderson’s films, God intervenes upon hapless human beings with force, often in the guise of something cataclysmic and unpleasant–as a divine interruption as opposed to something engineered by one of the protagonists. However precious his sensibility may be in other ways–that is, the opposite of gothic–Wes demonstrates time and again an implicit grasp of what novelist Flannery O’Connor once described in relation to her own work:

I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.

Where Flannery speaks of hard-headedness, Wes’ characters tend to be softer, not so much calloused by suffering and indignity as consumed with charming minutiae and narcissistic navel-gazing. But the inwardness proves intractable and warrants just as much of an abrupt, outside interruption.” (pg 16-17)

To read more…

Another Week Ends: Dylan, Cash and O'Connor, Gospel Guitar, Cathartic Indignation, Black Mirrors, and Impossible Fun Runs

Another Week Ends: Dylan, Cash and O’Connor, Gospel Guitar, Cathartic Indignation, Black Mirrors, and Impossible Fun Runs

1. Awesome, awesome story about a funky gospel music guitarist in the Atlanta area named Don Schanche, who also happens to be white. The Bitter Southerner published Don’s story, which gives a beautiful picture of racial reconciliation happening not on some abstract or systemic level, but interpersonally, on-the-ground, as a fruit of the gospel. The message which reconciled Don to his own faith is the same message of welcome and acceptance that he received from those within these little, nowhere churches where he played.

I learned how to find the key when a singer jumps into a song without warning, how…

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Karl Ove Knausgaard Loses Control

Karl Ove Knausgaard Loses Control

How I spend my time, what books I read, where I get my news, who I talk to and allow to influence me, these are the things I always want to manage (and micromanage). This is clearly a huge factor in my tendency to procrastinate. I don’t want to do that, so I put it off, forever. Of course, the truth of our psychology is that I am not my own person and never could be despite my protestations to the contrary. Too bad that never sinks in unless it’s forced on me.

Occasionally, I recognize my desire for constant control….

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Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

From our friend Jeff Dean, another Alabamian who knows a thing or two about procrastination. Zing!  

[Some spoilers below]

You probably shouldn’t read Harper Lee’s “new” novel, Go Set a Watchman.

If the book interests you as a “sequel” to her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re apt to be profoundly disappointed: the characters seem almost entirely disconnected from their past selves, and the narrative collapses by the end into little more than a recitation of bizarre and esoteric arguments concerning Civil Rights. But the text is short, the font is large, and the spacing is liberal; so the short story…

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Vast Construction Work in O’Connor’s Wise Blood

A quick passage from Flannery’s first novel, Wise Blood, that comes just after protagonist Hazel Motes has arrived in Taulkinham (“Town of the Little Cross”). The following doubles as both a dark look at how consumerism has limited our vision and a metaphor for O’Connor’s fiction falling on unreceptive ears:

His second night in Taulkinham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. 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. The stores in Taulkinham stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.


Motes goes on to found the “Church Without Christ” and preaches from atop the hood of his car before blinding himself with lime and ending up dead in a ditch (can you say BLEAK!?). Yet despite his efforts to physically blind himself, he still has the tools to see Christ. He desires after the truth that O’Connor’s fiction tries to present. But he’s not quite there yet. Fortunately, the beauty of the prose – the description of the sky as God’s “vast construction work” – is also an encouraging reminder of His presence in and around us.


The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor

Getting close to the end of our video rollout. This one comes from the incomparable Mr. McD:

The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

Come Down to the Manger and See the Little Stranger

There’s one particularly ‘seasonal’ portion of A Mess of Help, and here it is (minus the copious footnotes). Longtime readers may recognize portions, but this is the published and much-expanded version, which comes in the book’s final chapter, track nine of “Sing Mockingbird Sing: The Alpha and Omega of Annotated Playlists”. Enjoy:

I am quite proud of my office. It has taken a decade or two, but I finally feel like I’ve collected a suitable constellation of mementos to display. There’s the foldout from the ET: Picture Book record, which has Michael Jackson posing for what appears to be a school…

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The Hospitality Sting: We Are All the Least of These

The Hospitality Sting: We Are All the Least of These

In yet another one my “live your best life” moments, I started a new scripture study on hospitality last week. As a Mississippian, I was raised to smile broadly at people I find tiresome and to entertain with the latest Jr. League Cookbook. You know, life skills. So, I thought it would be good to study the Good Book in the hopes of making my hospitality mean something. As so often happens, God had other plans.

I casually mentioned this hospitality scripture study to one of my closest friends, “You should totally do it,” I told her. Only retrospectively am I…

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The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O'Connor, Fifty Years Later

The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O’Connor, Fifty Years Later

A woman once wrote Flannery O’Connor, whose stories spanned such plots as misfit murderers, rapacious Bible salesmen, and racist old men, and the woman suggested Flannery’s stories weren’t uplifting. Complaining about the criticism in a letter to a friend, O’Connor said she would’ve found them uplifting, “if her heart were in the right place.”

Flannery’s stories usually involved the all-out assault on the human illusion of mastery and independence, undertaken desperately and absurdly. An invalid for years, you can almost hear O’Connor’s relish as she describes various medical aids:

The brace shop was a small concrete warehouse lined and stacked with the equipment…

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