Good Things Out of Nazareth: The Uncollected Letters of Flannery O’Connor & Friends

Convergent. Oct. 2019. 400p. ed. by ed. by Benjamin B. Alexander. notes. index. ISBN 9780525575061. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525575078. LIT
The title of this collection, edited by Alexander (English & humanities, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville, OH), alludes to the concept that important ideas can come from relatively obscure places, such as the hometown of Jesus and National Book Award–winning author O’Connor (Milledgeville, GA). The work contains letters from, to, and about O’Connor, written during the final decades of her brief life (1925–64)—she was diagnosed with lupus at age 25—and beyond her death, as well as commentary by the compiler. Correspondents include her longtime mentor Caroline Gordon, Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, Walker Percy, Katharine Anne Porter, Thomas Merton, and several priest friends. Many are Southerners who offer a regional perspective on American history and life. These writers constitute a support group of sorts, offering praise, critiques, and suggestions on ways to improve one another’s works. O’Connor was unusual in that she was a Catholic writer from the South, and a focus here is on the importance of religion in her life as she dealt with her terminal illness. Often preoccupied with the grotesque, her works are described as combining violence with sacramental conviction in an effort to guide unbelievers toward the author’s view of truth.
VERDICT Of interest to students of O’Connor and American, especially Southern, mid-20th-century literature.

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