Flannery O’Connor

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Book Review: “Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith” by Richard Harries

Haunted by Christ is a riveting look at how modern writers dealt with lingering doubts, anger, sorrow, and the question of Christianity. Richard Harries asks readers to engage with several writers to ask them questions that might not normally be asked, and he challenges readers in ways that are intricately tied into these authors’ lives.

First, it is worth pointing out that the concept of “modern” here is being used in the technical sense, related to modernism. Harries sets this period starting with Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) and Closing in the early 20th century. The authors Harries surveys are Dostoevsky, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edward Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Stevie Smith, Samuel Beckett, W.H. Auden, William Golding, R.S. Thomas, Edwin Muir and George Mackay Brown, Elizabeth Jennings, Graham Greene with Flannery O’Connor, Shusaku Endo, and Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and Marilynne Robinson. Readers familiar with the works of these authors will know they run the gamut from skeptics to devout Christians. What ties them together, in Harries reading, is that their works are “haunted” by the supernatural, and specifically through a grappling with the person of Jesus Christ.

As a reader, I was unfamiliar with many of the authors, not having read much from the modernist movement. (This line makes me want to say sorry to my English teachers.) Nevertheless, Harries gives enough biographical information on each author to understand the points he’s making. Indeed, most of the information in the book is biographical, as Harries draws out each authors’ struggle with faith and coming to terms with the person of Jesus Christ. Even the skeptics surveyed clearly interact with Christianity, even if in negative ways.

I found several chapters of particular interest. Seeing C.S. Lewis’s and Philip Pullman’s competing mythologies set alongside each other for examination was fascinating. The chapter on W.H. Auden and his quiet, almost “polite” faith drew to light the great impact culture can have on one’s perception of religion and the work of God. The chapter on Golding makes me want to read more from him, despite not enjoying The Lord of the Flies. Emily Dickinson as “smouldering volcano” was an insightful look at a phenomenally successful poet. Each chapter had something that struck me, though the book also left me wishing I did know more about the authors and their works. I suspect Harries would be pleased to know his work led me to reach out and start reading some of these other works.

The biographical way Harries writes integrates worldview questions into the writings of each author. It never felt as though he subverted their own personal narratives, however. He didn’t pull punches in describing the way a skeptic like Pullman spoke about religion. Nor did he cover up aspects of authors’ lives that some might find unappealing. It’s an honest, almost unyielding book. It made me uncomfortable at times, but in ways that challenged me to learn and understand.

Haunted by Christ is a fascinating work. Harries offers insight and vision into Christianity in ways that I hadn’t really thought of before. It made me want to read many of the authors mentioned. And it made me want to know what someone who actually was more familiar with these authors might think. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth” by Michael Bruner

I love fiction, though I typically stick to science fiction, fantasy, and some mystery/thriller when I read fiction. I haven’t gotten as much into what is most typically called “literary fiction” but I had heard of Flannery O’Connor and knew one of my English teachers in high school was a big fan. When I saw this book about O’Connor and how her fiction showed the Christian Faith, I was extremely interested. Having read the book, I rushed off to pick up a collection of O’Connor’s short fiction. That should probably tell you whether I thought this book was worth reading or not.

Bruner’s look at O’Connor’s fiction is both semi-biographical and applicable. He traces O’Connor’s writings through her descriptions of herself and what she was thinking at the time. He shows how she integrated her faith into her writing, often in somewhat subversive ways. O’Connor dealt with the tough questions of the times–questions like race and pain that never go away–through the lens of fiction. O’Connor was writing in a southern and often racist context and showed how she dealt with this problem from a Christian perspective. Sometimes this took the form of showing evil for what it is–mindless and wrongheaded. Other times this meant showing a character in a positive light who might not be a traditional protagonist

Alongside these issues, Bruner also examines the influences on O’Connor’s writings and sheds particular light on the impact of Baron von Hugel. The latter’s writings were also infused with Catholic faith and perhaps inspired some of the directions O’Connor took with her own fiction.

If there’s one strike in the book it is that it was, at times, difficult to follow the flow due to my own unfamiliarity with O’Connor’s writings. The book was surely written with those who have at least some familiarity with O’Connor’s work in mind, so this is but a minor complaint, but readers who go in blind to O’Connor’s body of work should be aware of the possibility for some confusion here.

Bruner’s A Subversive Gospel is an enlightening work that will send readers to O’Connor’s work with new lenses. Or, if they, like me, haven’t encountered her works before, it may send them to the library to explore this intriguing character in greater depth. Recommended.

The Good

+Insights into O’Connor’s life as a writer

The Bad

-At times somewhat obscure for those without intimate awareness of O’Connor’s body of work

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Really Recommended Posts: 11/09/2012

I have featured literary apologetics, apologetics to Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses, geocreationism, and more. Check out the posts. Let me know what you liked. Come back for more.

Elves, Orcs, and Freaks: The Shared Authorial Vision of JRR Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor– Garret Johnson has written a very interesting look into the works of Tolkien and O’Connor. He notes that they viewed fiction as reality from a different outlook. It’s a fascinating post, and there is a second part, which can be viewed here.

An Encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness– It is easy for Christians to slam their doors on those who come door-to-door. What if, instead, we engaged them? This post is a model for engagement and provides some ways forward to engage with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Day After: My Thoughts on the Presidential Election– Michael Licona, author of The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, one of the best books I’ve read on the resurrection of Jesus, offers his thoughts after the election.

Human Footprints in Dinosaur Footprints– Over at GeoCreationism (a highly recommended site), Mike addresses the notion that human and dinosaur footprints have been found together or side by side. Some argue that this supports young earth creationism. Mike explores the paleontological evidence.

Meet the Multiverse– Edgar Andrews, author of what I think is the best introduction to Christian apologetics with a scientific emphasis, Who Made God?, explores the notion of the multiverse and whether it offers a challenge to the Fine Tuning argument for the existence of God. Regarding said argument, I’ve written on it in my post on the teleological argument.

Did Jesus Claim to be Divine? (Answering Islam)– I found this look at answering Muslim objections to the deity of Christ refreshing. It offers an essentially presuppositional approach, which I have found to be very useful when engaging with Muslims. Check it out.

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