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O'Connor, Flannery - Collected Works

Flannery O'Connor

Collected Works

Wise Blood • A Good Man Is Hard to Find • The Violent Bear It Away •
Everything That Rises Must Converge
• selected essays and letters

"Nothing O'Connor wrote was ever lukewarm. Not a tepid sentence of hers exists.... If I were to be consigned to that mythical desert island with only a bottle of some brand of aspirin and one book, I suspect the Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor might be my choice."
—Doris Grumbach, National Public Radio
Overview  |  Note on the Texts  |  Reviews  |  Table of Contents

Flannery O'Connor began her first novel, Wise Blood, while a student in the School for Writers at the State University of Iowa and worked on it until its publication by Harcourt, Brace and Company, May 15, 1952. One of the six stories she submitted as her Master of Fine Arts thesis in 1947, "The Train," was developed and expanded into chapter 1 of Wise Blood. The thesis version of "The Train," only slightly revised, had appeared earlier in Sewanee Review, April 1948. Other chapters of the work in progress were also published separately: "The Peeler" (chapter 3) and "The Heart of the Park" (chapter 5) were published in reverse order in Partisan Review, February and December 1949; and "Enoch and the Gorilla" (forming parts of chapters 11 and 12) was published in New World Writing I, April 1952. (These versions are included in The Complete Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971.) O'Connor made revisions in Wise Blood through the proof stage but made no changes in the text after the book was published in 1952. In 1961, when Wise Blood was out of print and the rights reverted to the author, O'Connor was asked by Robert Giroux, her editor, if she had any corrections for the Farrar, Straus reprinting of the work, but she had none. Her letter of October 14, 1961, to A. makes this clear: ". . . are there any corrections I would like to make. I can't even make myself read the thing again." When the novel was reprinted in 1962, she supplied a short preface, "Author's Note to the Second Edition," but no changes were made in the text of the novel. The text printed here is that of the first edition, first printing. Her preface is included in the notes to this volume.

In June 1955, Harcourt, Brace and Company published O'Connor's first collection of short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Nine of the ten stories had appeared elsewhere before their inclusion in the collection. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" was published in 1953 in Avon Book of Modern Writing, edited by William Phillips and Philip Rahv; "The River" in Sewanee Review, Summer 1953; "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" in Kenyon Review, Spring 1953; "A Stroke of Good Fortune" in Shenandoah, Spring 1953 (the first of these stories to be written, it originally appeared in Tomorrow, August 1949, under the title "Woman on the Stairs"); "A Temple of the Holy Ghost" in Harper's Bazaar, May 1954; "The Artificial Nigger" in Kenyon Review, Spring 1955; "A Circle in the Fire" in Kenyon Review, Spring 1954; "A Late Encounter with the Enemy" in Harper's Bazaar, September 1953; "The Displaced Person" in Sewanee Review, Fall 1954. All of the stories--except "Good Country People," which appeared in Harper's Bazaar, June 1955, the month the book was published--were revised for publication in the collection. Especially heavily revised were "A Stroke of Good Fortune," which had once been intended as a chapter in Wise Blood, and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." "The Displaced Person" was more than doubled in length for the collection; O'Connor added two sections to the story and made many changes in the first part. Following her usual practice, O'Connor revised until the last phase of the proofreading, but she made no further revisions once the stories were published in the collection. The texts printed here are from the first edition, first printing of A Good Man Is Hard to Find. In January 1960, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy (now Farrar, Straus and Giroux) published O'Connor's second novel, The Violent Bear It Away. O'Connor had worked on the novel for many years: a version of the first chapter appeared in New World Writing 8, October 1955, under the title "You Can't Be Any Poorer Than Dead." In the novel this chapter contains some revisions, as well as new material. As usual, O'Connor revised the book through page proofs but made no further changes once it was published. The text used in this volume is that of the first printing, first edition.

Flannery O'Connor's last collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, was published posthumously by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the spring of 1965. O'Connor had long before chosen the title. On March 26, 1961, she wrote her literary agent, Elizabeth McKee, about a story she had just finished: "The story is called EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE and this is the title I want to put on my next collection." By spring of 1964, when plans for the collection's publication were being made, O'Connor's health was failing rapidly. Seven of the nine stories in the volume had been published in journals: "Everything That Rises Must Converge" in New World Writing 19, 1961; "Greenleaf" in Kenyon Review, Summer 1956; "A View of the Woods" in Partisan Review, Fall 1957; "The Enduring Chill" in Harper's Bazaar, July 1958; "The Comforts of Home in Kenyon Review, Fall 1960; "The Lame Shall Enter First" in Sewanee Review, Summer 1962; and "Revelation" in Sewanee Review, Spring 1964.

In a letter of May 7, 1964, to Elizabeth McKee, O'Connor wrote: "I was wondering if you have copies of the magazines the stories have been published in, if FS&G couldn't just print up the book from those? If I were well there is a lot of rewriting and polishing I could do, but in my present state of health I see no reason for me to spend my energies on old stories that are essentially all right as they are." Instead, she used her energies to complete two other stories for the collection: "Parker's Back" and "Judgment Day." She had begun writing "Parker's Back" in December 1960 but had put it aside and worked on other stories. On July 15, 1964, less than three weeks before her death, O'Connor wrote her friend and former editor, Catharine Carver, "I have drug another out of myself and enclose it." ("Parker's Back" was published posthumously in Esquire, April 1965.)

"Judgment Day," the ninth story in the collection, was the final form of a story Flannery O'Connor had worked on since her days at the University of Iowa. The earliest known version is "The Geranium," the opening story of her M.F.A. thesis. The second known version is "An Exile in the East" (published posthumously in South Carolina Review, November 1978). "An Exile in the East" was considered for inclusion in A Good Man Is Hard to Find but was dropped in favor of other stories. O'Connor was still revising "Judgment Day" at the time of her death. In her July 15, 1964, letter to Catharine Carver (page 1216 in this volume) she wrote, "I do thank you and I'll get to work on this one you sent back." A carbon copy of the typescript of this story, marked by both Carver and O'Connor, shows that the author did make a number of changes suggested by Carver as well as many more of her own, including changing the spelling of "judgement" to "judgment." (The importance of the carbon typescript was recognized and is described by Karl-Heinz Westarp in The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, volume II, 1982, pp. 108-22.) Unfortunately, as O'Connor's strength waned she was apparently unable to get these changes to her editor, Robert Giroux. This volume prints "Judgment Day" from the marked carbon typescript version of the story which incorporates these last revisions.

O'Connor made few changes in the other stories between the publication of the periodical versions and the printing of Everything That Rises Must Converge; these changes appear in the collection. Therefore, except for "Judgment Day," the text used here is that of the first edition, first printing of Everything That Rises Must Converge.

The Geranium: A Collection of Short Stories is the title of Flannery O'Connor's 1947 Master of Fine Arts thesis. Four of the six stories in this collection were published separately during her lifetime: "The Geranium" in Accent, Summer 1946; "The Barber" in New Signatures, 1947, an anthology of student writing; "The Turkey" in Mademoiselle, November 1948, as "The Capture"; and "The Train" in Sewanee Review, April 1948. The published versions of "The Geranium" and "The Train" vary slightly from the thesis versions. However, "The Turkey" was considerably revised when it appeared as "The Capture" in Mademoiselle. The other two stories--"Wildcat" and "The Crop," which O'Connor had noted on the typescript was "unpublishable"--were published posthumously. (The Complete Stories, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971, contains all six stories.) The Geranium: A Collection of Short Stories is printed here from the M.F.A. thesis typescript.

The three remaining fiction pieces contained in this volume did not appear in any collected form during O'Connor's lifetime. "An Afternoon in the Woods" is the final version of "The Turkey" (and therefore of "The Capture") and in this form has not been printed before. Like "An Exile in the East" (the intermediate version between "The Geranium" and "Judgment Day"), it was originally meant to be included in A Good Man Is Hard to Find but was omitted to make room for "Good Country People." "An Afternoon in the Woods" is printed here from O'Connor's own typescript. "The Partridge Festival" was published in The Critic, March 1961. When O'Connor selected the contents of Everything That Rises Must Converge in the spring of 1964, she originally intended to include this story, but after rereading it decided to omit it. "Why Do the Heathen Rage?," a portion of a larger work that was never completed, was published in Esquire, July 1963. Both "The Partridge Festival" and "Why Do the Heathen Rage?" are printed in this volume from these published texts.

Eight of O'Connor's occasional essays are also included in this volume. Although O'Connor did write some nonfiction expressly for publication, she wrote other pieces for lectures that she presented with various modifications on more than one occasion. (Mystery and Manners, occasional prose, selected and edited by Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969, gives examples of some of these variations.) "A Fiction Writer and His Country" was written as a lecture to be given at the University of Notre Dame in April 1957, and for publication in The Living Novel: A Symposium, edited by Granville Hicks (Macmillan Company, 1957). This publication is the text of the essay printed here. "The Church and the Fiction Writer" was originally published in America, March 30, 1957, but the editor of the journal, Father Harold C. Gardiner, made a change in one paragraph which disturbed O'Connor because she felt that it seriously distorted what she had wanted to say. The text of "The Church and the Fiction Writer" printed in this volume is taken from her typescript and presents the paragraph in its original form. (The edited paragraph is included in the notes to this volume.) "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction" was a talk given in the Dorothy Lamar Blount Lecture Series at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, on October 28, 1960. Never published during O'Connor's lifetime, it is printed in this volume from her typescript. The "Introduction" to A Memoir of Mary Ann (Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1961) is taken from the first edition, first printing of the book. "The King of the Birds," with one paragraph deleted, appeared in Holiday, September 1961, under the title "Living with a Peacock." O'Connor was particularly unhappy about the change in title, writing to her friend Maryat Lee in August 1961, "They changed the title to something stupid & cut out a necessary paragraph but otherwise it is unmauled." Since the completed typescript is not available, this volume prints the Holiday version, but restores the original title and reprints in the notes the missing paragraph, taken from a typescript draft. "The Regional Writer" was a talk given by O'Connor in the fall of 1962 when she accepted from the Georgia Writers' Association a scroll awarded for The Violent Bear It Away. The talk was published in Esprit, Winter 1963, and that text is printed in this volume. "Fiction Is a Subject with a History--It Should Be Taught That Way" was published in the Georgia Bulletin, March 21, 1963, and that text is printed here. The last essay included in this volume, "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South," was originally given as a lecture at Georgetown University on October 18, 1963, on the occasion of the university's 175th anniversary celebration. The text of that lecture published in Viewpoint, Spring 1966, is printed in this volume.

The final section of this volume contains a selection of 259 letters written by O'Connor between June 1948 and the week before her death on August 3, 1964. Most of these letters were printed previously (in The Habit of Being, a larger collection edited by Sally Fitzgerald, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979). However, twenty-one of the letters are published here for the first time: To Helen Greene, May 23, 1952; Caroline Gordon Tate, September 11, 1952; Ashley Brown, May 22, 1953; Carl Hartman, March 2, 1954; Robert Lowell, March 26, 1954; Beverly Brunson, September 13, 1954; Caroline Gordon Tate, November 14, 1954; Beverly Brunson, January 1, 1955; Thomas Mabry, March 1, 1955; Erik Langkjaer, May 23, 1955; George Haslam, March 2, 1957; Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, November 4, 1957; William Sessions, May 15, 1958; Catharine Carver, July 1, 1959; Maryat Lee, August 21, 1959; Maryat Lee, October 14, 1959; A., November (?) 1960; Maryat Lee, April 21, 1961; A., May 5, 1962; Louise Abbot, June 15, 1963; Marcus Smith, July 12, 1964. In those cases where it was necessary to delete a name, long dashes have been inserted instead, or an initial followed by a long dash; the only exception to this rule are the letters to "A.," where the single initial is used throughout (as established in The Habit of Being). In the very few instances where the omission of part of a sentence or part of a paragraph was required, three asterisks (***) are inserted in the paragraph; in the case of a paragraph deletion, the three asterisks are on a line by themselves. All the letters in this volume are transcribed from the original typescript and manuscript sources by the editor and preserve O'Connor's own spellings.

This volume presents the texts of the original editions and typescripts chosen for inclusion here. It does not attempt to reproduce features of their typographic design, such as the display capitalization of chapter openings. The texts are reproduced without change, except for the correction of typographical errors. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are often expressive features, and they are not altered, even when inconsistent or irregular.

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