Literature: In Search of Flannery O’Connor

McMurdo SkyAh, yes, the literary frame: writing guided by an extended reference to another writer or writers and/or their writings. That’s a simple definition of what I call the “literary frame,” and while academics probably call it meta-something, we can just call it what we want here at “Down and Out.” The point is that we know it when we see it. The last post (“Abbey on Thoreau”) was about an essay with a literary frame, and I generally get jazzed when run into this kind of stuff, so I have to mention Lawrence Downes’ article “In Search of Flannery O’Connor,” which ran a few days ago in The New York Times. Click here if you’d like to read it online (as I did).

In the article that appears in the Times travel section, Downes sets off to explore Milledgeville, Georgia, which was the hometown of Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). Downes’ telling of this place gives us the usual—some history, geography, industry, people, etc., but Flannery O’Connor steals the show. Besides Downes’ tip about where to find “impressive sushi” in Milledgeville, we discover the lively details of its most impressive resident. When Downes visits the library that holds O’Connor’s papers and books, he tells us that she kept “a daunting array of fiction, classics and Catholic theology. The book of Updike’s poetry looked well read, but not as much as the Kierkegaard (“Fear and Trembling” and “The Sickness Unto Death”), whose binding was falling off.”

Seriously. Interesting. Thank you, Mr. Downes. And I’d like to see more of it. The two best “literary frame” books that I’ve read in the past year are Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) and Emma Larkin’s (pseudonym) Finding George Orwell in Burma (2005). Lovely books, both of them. Others? I welcome anyone to leave a comment about other books or articles that you think fit into this category…

Tracing the Sun—Days until next sunset: 11


One response to “Literature: In Search of Flannery O’Connor

  1. I read Grendel by John Gardner about 10 years ago, wow…I feel old. It is a riff of the classic Beowulf. Grendel is the monster in Beowulf and the book is the Beowulf story but from the monster’s perspective. Would be helpful to re-read Beowulf before you read Grendel. I think it was written some time in the 70’s. I can’t remember too much to give a full comment but I believe it fits your literary frame theme.

    I went through a literary phase in my early 20’s.


    I just finished Marie Antoinette, The Journey and am now reading, The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as You Start, Build, or Manage Your Own Business. Next, I’ll be reading the Weight Loss Diaries by our friend, Courtney Rubin.

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