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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) by Flannery O'Connor

Author Flannery O'Connor
Book Review
Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965)
by Flannery O'Connor

    The genre of literature known as "Southern Gothic" is essentially William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.   A major difference between Southern and other iterations of literature known as Gothic is the absence of the supernatural as a major motif.  Instead, "Gothic" in the context of southern literature refers to quirky characters and dark plots.   Everything That Rises Must Converge was the last book published by O'Connor before she died of Lupus at 46.

  Everything That Rises Must Converge is a group of short stories, nine in total, six of which were published in various publications prior to their collection.  The characters and themes are familiar: racist mother's, religious fanatics, disappointing sons, class and race conflict.  The pairing of a disaffected, failed, intellectual son and an elderly, widowed mother reoccurs in multiple stories.  This is also a frequent dynamic in the work of William Faulkner, and it is a combination that foreshadows the dynamic between conservative parents and their more liberal offspring for decades to come.

  Flannery O'Connor was herself no hipster, she was a practicing Catholic and remained so until her untimely death.  Her appeal to hipsters is a combination of a little bit of the dead-before-their-time rock-star, a little bit of the consanguinity between her concerns and the concerns of 1960's youth culture and a little bit of the darkness and weirdness of her vision, which spread so far, particularly in the worlds of film and tv to the point where her influence isn't cited.   Whether cited or not, her influence on the artistic concept of "weird small town America" can be traced back to her work.  For example, it's hard to imagine David Lynch or Tom Waits without Flannery O'Connor.

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