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“Many of my ardent admirers would be roundly shocked and disturbed if they realized that everything I believe is thoroughly moral, thoroughly Catholic, and that it is these beliefs that give my work its chief characteristics.” —Flannery O’Connor Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan “Many of my ardent admirers would be roundly shocked and disturbed if they realized that everything I believe is thoroughly moral, thoroughly Catholic, and that it is these beliefs that give my work its chief characteristics.” —Flannery O’Connor Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan of murderers and thieves, prostitutes and bigots whose lives are punctuated by horror and sudden violence. But perhaps the most shocking thing about Flannery O’Connor’s fiction is the fact that it is shaped by a thoroughly Christian vision. If the world she depicts is dark and terrifying, it is also the place where grace makes itself known. Her world—our world—is the stage whereon the divine comedy plays out; the freakishness and violence in O’Connor’s stories, so often mistaken for a kind of misanthropy or even nihilism, turn out to be a call to mercy. In this biography, Jonathan Rogers gets at the heart of O’Connor’s work. He follows the roots of her fervent Catholicism and traces the outlines of a life marked by illness and suffering, but ultimately defined by an irrepressible joy and even hilarity. In her stories, and in her life story, Flannery O’Connor extends a hand in the dark, warning and reassuring us of the terrible speed of mercy.


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“Many of my ardent admirers would be roundly shocked and disturbed if they realized that everything I believe is thoroughly moral, thoroughly Catholic, and that it is these beliefs that give my work its chief characteristics.” —Flannery O’Connor Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan “Many of my ardent admirers would be roundly shocked and disturbed if they realized that everything I believe is thoroughly moral, thoroughly Catholic, and that it is these beliefs that give my work its chief characteristics.” —Flannery O’Connor Flannery O’Connor’s work has been described as “profane, blasphemous, and outrageous.” Her stories are peopled by a sordid caravan of murderers and thieves, prostitutes and bigots whose lives are punctuated by horror and sudden violence. But perhaps the most shocking thing about Flannery O’Connor’s fiction is the fact that it is shaped by a thoroughly Christian vision. If the world she depicts is dark and terrifying, it is also the place where grace makes itself known. Her world—our world—is the stage whereon the divine comedy plays out; the freakishness and violence in O’Connor’s stories, so often mistaken for a kind of misanthropy or even nihilism, turn out to be a call to mercy. In this biography, Jonathan Rogers gets at the heart of O’Connor’s work. He follows the roots of her fervent Catholicism and traces the outlines of a life marked by illness and suffering, but ultimately defined by an irrepressible joy and even hilarity. In her stories, and in her life story, Flannery O’Connor extends a hand in the dark, warning and reassuring us of the terrible speed of mercy.

30 review for The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    This is a brief (her life was brief) but thorough look at the life of Flannery O'Connor. I do not enjoy reading books by people I know anymore as it is very hard to judge the book fairly-- A prophet is without honor-- but this book surprised me by how well-written it was. It should not have because the author's Bark of the Bog Owl was a huge hit with one of my students last year. The Terrible Speed of Mercy is a great introduction to Flannery O'Connor and a great prequel to reading her letters i This is a brief (her life was brief) but thorough look at the life of Flannery O'Connor. I do not enjoy reading books by people I know anymore as it is very hard to judge the book fairly-- A prophet is without honor-- but this book surprised me by how well-written it was. It should not have because the author's Bark of the Bog Owl was a huge hit with one of my students last year. The Terrible Speed of Mercy is a great introduction to Flannery O'Connor and a great prequel to reading her letters in The Habit of Being. I recommend it without reservation!

  2. 4 out of 5

    S Suzanne

    I wanted a refresher about FOC after reading All the Rises Must converge after at least a decade, and reading The Violent Bear It Away for the first time. She is an inspiring person for keeping her spirits and humor as sharp as she did through the ordeal of her last decade of life, ending before she hit 40. The book makes a point that the last thing she ever wanted was to self-dramatize over her illness(es). She always downplayed her fragile state/ or brushed the subject away with humor, and pray I wanted a refresher about FOC after reading All the Rises Must converge after at least a decade, and reading The Violent Bear It Away for the first time. She is an inspiring person for keeping her spirits and humor as sharp as she did through the ordeal of her last decade of life, ending before she hit 40. The book makes a point that the last thing she ever wanted was to self-dramatize over her illness(es). She always downplayed her fragile state/ or brushed the subject away with humor, and prayed more for her books than her physical health. She was misunderstood when first published, and often still is. I can see why. A Roman Catholic writing in from the Bible Belt is going to confuse a lot of people. Many do not know their shades of Christianity these days, and as gruesome as some of her tales are, many church-going Christians avoid her. She put immense intensity into her work, and I think she did a good job of setting the stage for her electrifying revelations. The irony is still there for me that hers are some of the darkest gothic tales ever, yet her views are so different, her goal so different, than they are often interpreted. And from other writers in the same genre. Highly recommended quick read for anyone interested in basic clarity on where she is coming from. Flannery is a mystery to be contemplated for a lifetime, but this gives one a solid base to start from.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    I do not know why this is called a "spiritual biography." A biography I imagine to be a story of one's life, from beginning to end, from infancy to maturity, old age and death. Flannery O'Connor, however, seemed to be as Catholic as she was born when she died not yet 40. There had been no ups and downs in it, or the swaying from belief to unbelief and back. No dark nights of the soul. Maybe calling this a "spiritual" biography was just an excuse for its brevity? So no one can criticize it as a h I do not know why this is called a "spiritual biography." A biography I imagine to be a story of one's life, from beginning to end, from infancy to maturity, old age and death. Flannery O'Connor, however, seemed to be as Catholic as she was born when she died not yet 40. There had been no ups and downs in it, or the swaying from belief to unbelief and back. No dark nights of the soul. Maybe calling this a "spiritual" biography was just an excuse for its brevity? So no one can criticize it as a haphazardly written biography proper?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I loved this and will read it again, but it took me a while to get into it. The first seven chapters read like a standard biography, not particularly insightful if you're already familiar with O'Connor's childhood and adolescence. The second half of the book is pure gold though, as Rogers delves into the spiritual nature of O'Connor's life as an author and the development of her prophetic voice through her work. He relies heavily on letters that were exchanged between O'Connor and several close I loved this and will read it again, but it took me a while to get into it. The first seven chapters read like a standard biography, not particularly insightful if you're already familiar with O'Connor's childhood and adolescence. The second half of the book is pure gold though, as Rogers delves into the spiritual nature of O'Connor's life as an author and the development of her prophetic voice through her work. He relies heavily on letters that were exchanged between O'Connor and several close friends as he weaves a unified picture of her faith, humor, stories, culture, personality, relationships and chronic illness - it gave me a new perspective on how these aspects influenced one another, and I gained a deeper understanding of how rich her interior life was. This also made me want to read The Habit of Being (the collection of O'Connor's personal correspondence) and her entire body of published work in the order it was originally written. Flannery O'Connor is a marvelous example of a deeply faithful yet often misunderstood person, living with profound integrity despite so many physical, social and professional obstacles. Her life humbles and inspires me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    "And if Southern writers have a tendency to write about freaks, O'Connor remarked, 'it is because we are still able to recognize one'." - p. 21 This is a beautifully crafted book. It was the most perfect orientation to the heart and mind of Flannery O'Connor and it gave me the confidence to meet her writing with the right openness of mind. I have long cringed at the name Flannery O'Connor presuming her work to be macabre and something unholy. As a Catholic and lover of classics I always puzzled o "And if Southern writers have a tendency to write about freaks, O'Connor remarked, 'it is because we are still able to recognize one'." - p. 21 This is a beautifully crafted book. It was the most perfect orientation to the heart and mind of Flannery O'Connor and it gave me the confidence to meet her writing with the right openness of mind. I have long cringed at the name Flannery O'Connor presuming her work to be macabre and something unholy. As a Catholic and lover of classics I always puzzled over her name being connected with great modern Catholic writers but was too cowardly to meet her on her own terms. I credit Mr. Rogers with helping me to fall in love with this remarkable author and her important fiction. "And more than ever now it seems that the kingdom of heaven has to be taken by violence or not at all. You have to push as hard as the age that pushes you." The Habit of Being, 229. This beautiful biography has some spoilers in it for the new O'Connor reader - but I confess - those spoilers were a mercy to me. Knowing the fate of the grandmother prepared me and helped me to read the story with the right focus. I think that Mr. Rogers must really love Flannery O'Connor. He worked very hard to let her tell her own self story by citing countless letters and essays. While he gave us the outline, he filled it in with her own words and ideas and did it in a way that felt relaxed, friendly and intelligent - like his subject herself. He showed profound respect for her theology and faith and worked hard to help the reader understand how those beliefs influenced O'Connor's attitudes and writing. I genuinely feel like I have met and chatted with this remarkable soul thanks to Mr. Rogers. I sobbed at her death and appreciated his beautiful treatment of it. "It is remarkable to think about this woman - who had made a name for herself with stories of earthly terror and grotesquerie - meditating every day on the province of joy, lest she be ignorant of the concerns of her true country. All that darkness was in the service of eternal brightness. All that violence was in the service of peace and serenity." (p 162)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I really appreciated this book. A friend and I decided to read some of O’Connor’s short stories together. Neither of us had read her before or knew a lot about her. After the first story we read we were both a little unsure about what we thought. We decided to read Rogers book about her together alongside the stories. I am so glad we did it. Rogers gave us a clear and concise understanding of Flannery and her work. I really appreciated getting to know her better as we read. I will definitely con I really appreciated this book. A friend and I decided to read some of O’Connor’s short stories together. Neither of us had read her before or knew a lot about her. After the first story we read we were both a little unsure about what we thought. We decided to read Rogers book about her together alongside the stories. I am so glad we did it. Rogers gave us a clear and concise understanding of Flannery and her work. I really appreciated getting to know her better as we read. I will definitely continue reading through her works. I have this book to thank for that. This book and the great discussions with my reading buddy. 😊

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katie Marquette

    "O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those that we are looking for." This is the beginning of a prayer that Flannery O'Connor prayed everyday to the archangel Raphael, patron of happy meetings and healing. There's a story of Flannery O'Connor as a young girl hating the idea that her guardian angel was always looking over her shoulder. This odd, imaginitive little girl would try to corner her "O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those that we are looking for." This is the beginning of a prayer that Flannery O'Connor prayed everyday to the archangel Raphael, patron of happy meetings and healing. There's a story of Flannery O'Connor as a young girl hating the idea that her guardian angel was always looking over her shoulder. This odd, imaginitive little girl would try to corner her guardian angel in the closet, turning suddenly to swing a punch at her invisible lurker. This anecdote sums up Flannery O'Connor's sometimes perplexingly orthodox theology: She never, ever questioned the Truth of the Catholic Church in which she was born and raised, but she also never failed to wrestle with this illusive, persistent God she professed. This short but detailed book gives us an engaging, theologically-rich introduction to Flannery O'Connor and her art. Admittedly, I have never been wild about O'Connor's stories. Her "Christ-haunted" South, filled with mad preachers, drunkards, senseless violence, etc. was always a bit harsh for my taste. I appreciate it artistically but her stories never failed to leave me feeling a bit hollowed out inside. I do, however, greatly appreciate O'Connor's essays on faith and fiction. Her understanding of the Christian artist is probably the deepest, most honest, I've read in contemporary works. O'Connor's life, from odd, disgruntled little girl, to a serious, wildly talented and original writer is gripping. Perhaps all the more interesting because the objective 'facts' of her life are so limited - most of her time was spent on a farm with her mother. Their routines didn't change much and no scandal, romantic or otherwise, ever touched Flannery's brief life. This writerly life, free of so much of the predictable dramas of the artist, is perhaps all the more compelling because of its lack of cliches. O'Connor undoubtedly confused a number of her contemporaries, many of whom consistently misunderstood her fiction. They only saw the surface level (those things that, admittedly, irk me) - the violence, the poverty, the despair. They failed - in their lack of sacramental imagination - to see the 'terrible mercy,' 'the wise blood,' - that persistent, inescapable God that offers salvation to even the most despicable characters. O'Connor, a devout Catholic, saw the Protestant South stumbling through life - accidentally finding their way into Grace every now and then - consisently offered choices they do not understand - right or wrong, yes or no, heaven or hell? This deep theology ran counter to the nihilistic, indulgent fiction of the day, offering a counterpoint to an increasingly secular and confused world. O'Connor's eccentricities - her chickens, her peacocks, her wry humor, her love-hate for the Southern culture that she knew so well - established her as utterly unique and singular. She died at age 39 from Lupus, having struggled with the illness for much of her adult life. One of the most famous stories has O'Connor defending the literal presence of Christ in the Eucharist - "If it's a symbol, to Hell with it!" O'Connor's Art insists on the LITERAL, REAL convergence of mystical realities with the spoiled, death-ridden physical world. There are no symbols here. Just the terrible, awe-inspiring, entirely undeserved, entirely true, Redemption of the Human Story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sally Ewan

    Since the "Close Reads" podcast discussion was on O'Connor's book "Everything That Rises Must Converge", I read the stories aloud each week to my husband. After finishing the book, my second time through it, I wanted to better understand her intention, the way her work was viewed at the time it was written, and how she saw God. This short book was a great way to learn more. Rogers covers her entire life but focuses on her spirituality more than the practical facts of her life. Instead, he gives Since the "Close Reads" podcast discussion was on O'Connor's book "Everything That Rises Must Converge", I read the stories aloud each week to my husband. After finishing the book, my second time through it, I wanted to better understand her intention, the way her work was viewed at the time it was written, and how she saw God. This short book was a great way to learn more. Rogers covers her entire life but focuses on her spirituality more than the practical facts of her life. Instead, he gives some information about what was happening to her, especially in terms of where she lived, who her friends were, and what her physical condition was like through her life, as background to her thoughts on God. I enjoyed reading this and hope to read more biographies on her.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stef

    now that i understand her a bit better, time to reread her work!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    Now I really want to read The Habit of Being. Two quotes: "For O'Connor, the real horror was never violence or deformity, but damnation. Horror that awakens a soul to its own danger and prepares it to receive grace is no horror, but a mercy." (J. Rogers) "I distrust pious phrases, particularly when they issue from my mouth." (Flannery O'Connor)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ben House

    This is a very enjoyable book. I have been reading, writing, and talking about Flannery O'Connor for many years now and never cease to be amazed at what she did. This book is a rich and yet short biography of Miss O'Connor. It is full of rich quotes from her letters which reveal her salty wit, her sufferings, the challenges she faced in writing, and her deep theological perspective. It is hard to beat O'Connor when it comes to such categories as writer of short stories, or writer with a Christian This is a very enjoyable book. I have been reading, writing, and talking about Flannery O'Connor for many years now and never cease to be amazed at what she did. This book is a rich and yet short biography of Miss O'Connor. It is full of rich quotes from her letters which reveal her salty wit, her sufferings, the challenges she faced in writing, and her deep theological perspective. It is hard to beat O'Connor when it comes to such categories as writer of short stories, or writer with a Christian worldview, or Southern writer. The only limitation to O'Connor was that she died rather young and left us with only a few books, some essays, and a host of letters. The Nobel Prize is only given to living authors, so she really was not in the running. I wish she had gotten that award, but I believe she got a greater reward upon her passing from this world. As Rogers described her writing, rewriting, and reworking her short stories, I was reminded again and again of just how many fine works she produced by banging away on a manual typewriter on a lonely Georgia farm living with her mother and surrounded by pea fowl. This is a great, funny, and delightful biography. But if you have not read St. Flannery herself, get thee to a bookstore immediately.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam Shields

    Short Review: This is a good short introductory biography of O'Connor. I have previously read an edited edition of her grad school journal (A Prayer Journal) and one of her collections of short stories (A Good Man is Hard to Find). But I knew little about her and after reading the short stories thought I needed to know more before reading more by her. My plan is to read A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth and then the Image Journal edition of Short Review: This is a good short introductory biography of O'Connor. I have previously read an edited edition of her grad school journal (A Prayer Journal) and one of her collections of short stories (A Good Man is Hard to Find). But I knew little about her and after reading the short stories thought I needed to know more before reading more by her. My plan is to read A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth and then the Image Journal edition of her college journals and then her first novel, Wise Blood. My slightly longer review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/the-terrible-speed-o...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Coletti

    As a writer and Christian thinker and artist, Flannery O'Connor exhibited remarkable insight and observation. Whether I entirely agree with her or not I think she is fascinating. There is no one other than she who could have written many of her books. After having read this book, I am actually looking forward to reading some of her books again. I have started a Good Man is Hard to Find twice without being able to get beyond the initial violence. I'm hoping this gives me a greater understanding o As a writer and Christian thinker and artist, Flannery O'Connor exhibited remarkable insight and observation. Whether I entirely agree with her or not I think she is fascinating. There is no one other than she who could have written many of her books. After having read this book, I am actually looking forward to reading some of her books again. I have started a Good Man is Hard to Find twice without being able to get beyond the initial violence. I'm hoping this gives me a greater understanding of what she is doing in her writing. Certainly I understand her better has a person.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I didn't know a thing about Flannery O'Connor a few weeks ago and even after reading one of her short stories, I didn't "get" her. My friend and I decided to read this biography of her along with some more short stories and after learning who she was and what she was trying to achieve in her writing, we both appreciate her work. I even like her after being repulsed by that first story and I am no longer repulsed. I listened to a podcast interview with Jonathan Rogers and he summed up this biograph I didn't know a thing about Flannery O'Connor a few weeks ago and even after reading one of her short stories, I didn't "get" her. My friend and I decided to read this biography of her along with some more short stories and after learning who she was and what she was trying to achieve in her writing, we both appreciate her work. I even like her after being repulsed by that first story and I am no longer repulsed. I listened to a podcast interview with Jonathan Rogers and he summed up this biography and O'Connor's writing mission best when he said: "she wrote about God for people who believed God is dead."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diana Nelson

    This is a very thorough biography (including much of O'Connor's own epistolary writing) of Flannery O'Connor's life as an author. For those who struggle to understand the faith that his hidden in her works, this biography will help you uncover it in a general sense. I think I'm fond of O'Connor because (in addition to her writing skill) she is a black sheep. She shuns popularity and is never afraid to be herself. She's also super sarcastic and witty. I wish we could have been friends.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen O'Neal

    A good short biography of Flannery O’Connor. I would have liked to have seen more analysis of how being a woman with disabilities shaped her, but the book mostly concentrated on her devout Catholicism which of course is an important part of her story too. Overall I felt this was a good introduction to O’Connor’s life, but it left me with more questions than answers after reading it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paola Barrera Ruiz

    A gift of a book. Whether you are curious about the famed southern goth writer, know her work, or simply enjoy a good biography ;this book won't dissapoint. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it trampolined me into the dark and fascinating body of fiction she produced.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eliza Fitzgerald

    I'm not usually a big biography person but I couldn't put this one down

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben Palpant

    Wonderfully helpful and informative.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sones

    Well done. Now I need to go read some O'Connor!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Candace Andrews

    Although I have read all of Flannery O’Connor’s works, having done my Master’s thesis on them long ago, I learned many new things about Mary Flannery O’Connor and her life from Jonathan Rogers’ short biography, The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography. The title of the biography is taken from a line in O’Connor’s second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, and the title mirrors, more than O’Connor’s life, that moment of consciousness (O’Connor would call it grace) when her protagonists are Although I have read all of Flannery O’Connor’s works, having done my Master’s thesis on them long ago, I learned many new things about Mary Flannery O’Connor and her life from Jonathan Rogers’ short biography, The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography. The title of the biography is taken from a line in O’Connor’s second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, and the title mirrors, more than O’Connor’s life, that moment of consciousness (O’Connor would call it grace) when her protagonists are slammed into one brief epiphanic and cathartic interlude, often lasting just moments. It is common to view Flannery O’Connor as isolated, or even as a recluse, a long-suffering writer who died, before the age of 40, from lupus. And although the last three facts are true, Rogers’ biography does not support the idea that O’Connor was essentially isolated. From 1945-1950, O’Connor was at college in Iowa; then in New York, where she lived in a writer’s colony; and then in Connecticut, where she lived with friends. After moving back to her home base in Georgia, she traveled to North and South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere on her many speaking engagements as well as visiting Lourdes, France. Rogers speaks of her many, many friends whom she visited and who visited her and her voluminous correspondences with friends, family, and acquaintances. Rogers does a wonderful job of underscoring both O’Connor’s devout Catholicism as well as her sardonic, sometimes self-deprecatory, sense of humor. He also derives interesting and plausible comparisons, relating characters and circumstances in O’Connor’s life at Andalusia, her family’s dairy farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, with characters and settings in her short stories and novels. He draws upon O’Connor’s readings of Thomas Aquinas, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and surprisingly, Edgar Allan Poe, to name a few, to posit how different writers and thinkers influenced her works. Concerning the works themselves, he demonstrates the massive amount of hard work O’Connor put into her writing, spending years and years on her two novels, writing, revising, and editing. Rogers does not sidestep O’Connor’s detractors, but rather lets O’Connor’s words speak for themselves on such issues as race, misinterpretations of her work, and faith. I gave this book five stars because it was easy to read (I finished it in two sittings), informative, and demonstrated sound, and sometimes illuminating, knowledge of O’Connor’s unique sensibility and purpose in her fiction. Two of my favorite passages from Rogers are, “Perhaps the most important thing that sets O’Connor’s work apart from that of her Southern Gothic contemporaries is the possibility that her lame will walk again and her maimed will be made whole” (62); and, “She did not expect fiction to explain mystery, but to gesture at its unfathomable depths, and thus to preserve the mystery that dogma guards” (136). I would highly recommend this biography to Flannery O’Connor fans who would like to know more about her life. It is also a good introduction to O’Connor for those who know less about her since Rogers first summarizes her works before he talks about them. This biography has both a table of contents and an index, which I appreciate. I only wish there were more pictures aside from the lovely cover photo of Flannery, even though those can be easily found on the Internet. As an aside, and for those interested, there is a video of Andalusia Farm, O’Connor’s home for the last thirteen years of her life, on YouTube. There you can see the family kitchen, the room where Regina O’Connor, Flannery’s mother, worked, and Flannery’s bedroom and workspace, minus her books and typewriter. It is my dream to one day visit in person the home of this great American writer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Though I thought I was familiar with Flannery O'Connor (having read almost all of her short stories & novels), this biography opened in me a new appreciation for her faithfulness and her wit. Rogers is a superb storyteller and his prose shines here, intermingling with deft quotes from O'Connor's letters and writings to give us an honest portrait of one of the South's most misunderstood writers. Highly recommended, even if you aren't familiar with her works. After reading this, you will certainly Though I thought I was familiar with Flannery O'Connor (having read almost all of her short stories & novels), this biography opened in me a new appreciation for her faithfulness and her wit. Rogers is a superb storyteller and his prose shines here, intermingling with deft quotes from O'Connor's letters and writings to give us an honest portrait of one of the South's most misunderstood writers. Highly recommended, even if you aren't familiar with her works. After reading this, you will certainly want to be.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    Interesting to read about Flannery O'Connor's life, I just didn't think this biography was particularly well-written. But now I need to read some of O'Connor's actual stories- I read a collection of her short stories in high school or college but I think I'd get a lot more out of them now.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    I first was exposed to Flannery O'Connor's writings in college. I was immediately impressed with her stories and read as many as I could at that time. Someone mentioned this book to me, so I thought I'd read it, get a sort of backyard view of the woman who wrote such harsh, sardonic stories. This wasn't exactly what I'd call a spiritual biography. It was more of an overview of O'Connor's life, with the first fifth of the book glossing over her childhood and the last four fifths of it summarizing I first was exposed to Flannery O'Connor's writings in college. I was immediately impressed with her stories and read as many as I could at that time. Someone mentioned this book to me, so I thought I'd read it, get a sort of backyard view of the woman who wrote such harsh, sardonic stories. This wasn't exactly what I'd call a spiritual biography. It was more of an overview of O'Connor's life, with the first fifth of the book glossing over her childhood and the last four fifths of it summarizing her adult life as a writer, with wonderful quotes, excerpts of her personal letters and synopses of her stories. Rogers touches on her Catholic faith, but I wouldn't say this was at all a delving of her spiritual life. Which is what I'd expected and hoped. This may be because O'Connor didn't write much about herself. And she wasn't very sociable either. But I did get a picture of what she was like. A complicated, faithful, talented, eccentric and brilliant studier of personal dynamics, someone you can't pigeon-hole as a 'Southern Writer", as so many did. She was so much more than that. I enjoyed this book despite its brevity and cursory information and am inspired now to go back and re-read her stories, and read her two novels.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    Quite good. A wonderful overview and insight into the life of one of the South's most famous writers. Jonathan Rogers proves he is fantastic at biography. He uses O'Connor's letters extensively to prove his thesis that she wasn't only a Southern Gothic writer, but also full of wit and joy. My one quibble with this book was that the editing was atrocious. I even went so far as to scour the acknowledgments to find the editor's name. Several glaring misspellings and the footnotes were an absolute mes Quite good. A wonderful overview and insight into the life of one of the South's most famous writers. Jonathan Rogers proves he is fantastic at biography. He uses O'Connor's letters extensively to prove his thesis that she wasn't only a Southern Gothic writer, but also full of wit and joy. My one quibble with this book was that the editing was atrocious. I even went so far as to scour the acknowledgments to find the editor's name. Several glaring misspellings and the footnotes were an absolute mess. But the book did make me want to revisit the writings of Flannery with renewed vigor so it's a great success.

  26. 5 out of 5

    M.G. Bianco

    Great book about a fascinating person. The five star rating may have more to do with who the book was about than how the book was written. Not sure you could write a book about Flannery O'Connor that gets less than five stars! I really enjoyed the organization of the book, and how he brought into the story her novels, short stories, letters, and other correspondence to tell us as much as he could about the character of this woman. This is a great book--especially if you are looking for an introdu Great book about a fascinating person. The five star rating may have more to do with who the book was about than how the book was written. Not sure you could write a book about Flannery O'Connor that gets less than five stars! I really enjoyed the organization of the book, and how he brought into the story her novels, short stories, letters, and other correspondence to tell us as much as he could about the character of this woman. This is a great book--especially if you are looking for an introduction to Miss O'Connor.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debbiespage

    This book increased my respect for O'Connor and has made me want to read more of her work.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    I love Flannery O'Connor's short stories (I haven't read her novels) and I really looked forward to reading this biography because it is a spiritual biography and you cannot understand O'Connor's writing if you do not understand her faith. On that level the book succeeds and I enjoyed it. The author understands O'Connor's faith and sets her writing firmly within the context of her Roman Catholicism (but with one glaring omission). The book fell short for me because of two things which I will get I love Flannery O'Connor's short stories (I haven't read her novels) and I really looked forward to reading this biography because it is a spiritual biography and you cannot understand O'Connor's writing if you do not understand her faith. On that level the book succeeds and I enjoyed it. The author understands O'Connor's faith and sets her writing firmly within the context of her Roman Catholicism (but with one glaring omission). The book fell short for me because of two things which I will get to shortly. O'Connor herself didn't think anyone would write a biography about her: “There won’t be any biographies written of me,” she wrote, “because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.” Little did she know on that score for more than one biography of her has already been written! Jonathan Rogers does "get" Flannery O'Connor very well. He writes: "O’Connor’s challenge, her calling, was to offer up the truths of the faith to a world that, to her way of thinking, had mostly lost its ability to see and hear such truths. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures." This is exactly what O'Connor wanted to do in her fiction and she succeeds in doing so, even though it was the rare reviewer of her books and stories who understood this. Most of the reviewers misunderstood what she was aiming at in her fiction. When once accused of resting the philosophical foundations of her writing on Kafka and Soren Kierkegaard she wrote: “My philosophical notions don’t derive from Kierkegard (I can’t even spell it), but from St. Thomas Aquinas. And I don’t intend the tone of the book to be pessimistic. It is after all a story about redemption and if you admit redemption, you are no pessimist." O'Connor was no pessimist for she believed firmly in redemption brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. O'Connor once wrote in reaction to reviewers who misunderstood what she was trying to do in her first novel "Wise Blood": "Wise Blood is not about belly hunger, nor religious nostalgia, but about the persistent craving of the soul. It is not about a man whose religious allegiance is a name for a shiftlessness and fatalism that make him degenerate in poverty and bestial before hunger, nor about a family of rustics who sink in naturalistic anonymity when the religious elevation of their burial rite is over. It is about man’s inescapable need of his fearful, if blind, search for salvation." I had two major faults with this book. I hoped that the author would do some analysis of O'Connor's writing on a spiritual level, but he does this only in passing while telling the story of her life. I think this is a terrible loss. The book is a spiritual biography and all of her writing was written from a spiritual framework, what does her writing tell us about Flannery O'Connor and the theology that underpins her writing? We only learn little bits in passing. I felt that this was a major weakness of the book. My second major complaint is that the author finishes his book at Flannery's death. He doesn't bother to spend a chapter summarizing her work or the meaning of her life in the context of being a writer of fiction. As a good example of what I mean, check out the lengthy introduction to Stonewall Jackson's life by James Robertson. That was a masterpiece of an essay in which he argues quite convincingly that you cannot understand Stonewall Jackson if you do not understand his faith. The same goes for Flannery O'Connor, but the author only points this fact out in passing, which is a shame, he never firmly systematizes and demonstrates what he means. Other than those two major problems, I loved the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    I loved the glimpses this book gave me into O’Connor’s inner thought-life. Rogers really understands her as both a person and an author and was able to tell the story of her life in a way that cast new insight for me into her writing. Rogers helped me to understand how O’Connor’s ideas about story developed throughout her short and pain-ridden life, and how her circumstances shaped the kind of writer she became. In reading about her ideas of story in the context of her life, it helped me underst I loved the glimpses this book gave me into O’Connor’s inner thought-life. Rogers really understands her as both a person and an author and was able to tell the story of her life in a way that cast new insight for me into her writing. Rogers helped me to understand how O’Connor’s ideas about story developed throughout her short and pain-ridden life, and how her circumstances shaped the kind of writer she became. In reading about her ideas of story in the context of her life, it helped me understand how earnest she was about life and meaning and story. It helped me understand anew how little O'Connor wrote merely to entertain, and how much she viewed story as a way of telling the truth. Reading about her life also gave me words to articulate what I don’t like about so many stories I read. So many authors haven't thought or cared deeply enough about life to write truly challenging stories. The book gave me so much food for thought, that I immediately revisited a dozen or so of O'Connor's short stories and came to understand them in a new light. One of my favorite quotes from this book is the author summarizing what O’Connor believed about fiction. “The duty of the fiction writer is to look clearly and fearlessly at what is—not what ought to be—and to use those concrete facts as the raw material for fiction. Ironically, it is only when the fiction writer obeys the laws of his or her art, rather than resorting to propaganda, that the sense of the Transcendent has a chance to exert itself.” O’Connor believed that the moral basis of fiction and poetry is the accurate naming of things. Telling someone a story is saying, “Come here, let me show you something,” like a child would show a caterpillar to his mom. The more showing an author does, the more powerful the story becomes, given he is showing true things. Writers have to pay attention and look long and hard to be really good writers. Only after seeing what is, can we tell the truth about the world God made. When we make it prettier or sugarcoat the world, we are trying to say that our reality is nicer than God’s and that He should have consulted us when he made the world. Much Christian fiction is repulsive because it is shallow, fluffy, and conquers evil only by downplaying its existence. O’Connor is willing to look at the most grotesque evil that exists, something as extreme as a murderer, but also as pedestrian as self-righteousness, and show how even those dark places are not without glimpses of God’s grace. I’ve always known O’Connor was hard to understand, about the farthest thing from a “beach read” or a dime store novel that you could come by. And that has always drawn me to her (because I hate fluffy books.) But that knowledge only took me so far. I was still often perplexed and felt a bit lost. But now her short stories have opened up for me. The short story “The River,” (from her collection “A Good Man is Hard to Find”) really punched me in the gut. The sense of transcendence is something that O’Connor gives flesh to by writing clearly about every day southern life. And Rogers showed us how transcendence moved O’Connor through intimating to us the details of her short life. For anyone who wants to better understand not only O'Connor, but the very nature of fiction itself, I highly recommend this short and punchy read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brock Meier

    The Terrible Speed of Mercy is an invaluable insight into the work of Mary Flannery O'Connor. While Rogers does fill in the biographical blanks of O'Connor's external life, the book is about much more than that. Relying heavily on the volumes of correspondence she produced (she probably spent as much time writing letters as she did writing publishable literature), he delves into the more invisible aspects of what she believed and how she thought. Not understanding where her writing came from was The Terrible Speed of Mercy is an invaluable insight into the work of Mary Flannery O'Connor. While Rogers does fill in the biographical blanks of O'Connor's external life, the book is about much more than that. Relying heavily on the volumes of correspondence she produced (she probably spent as much time writing letters as she did writing publishable literature), he delves into the more invisible aspects of what she believed and how she thought. Not understanding where her writing came from was then, and is now, the major cause of so many readers and reviewers entirely missing the point of her works. The book's subtitle, "A Spiritual Biography—" captures well Rogers' intent. Copious extracts from O'Connor's more private writings reveal a woman consumed with the potent realties of spiritual life, and how those realities give substance to life in the here and now— "For me the visible universe is a reflection of the invisible" And concerning writing from a Christian point of view, she commented that writing in a pious style— …is just propaganda and being propaganda for the side of the angels only makes it worse. The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it." About the great mysteries of matters such as sin, grace, forgiveness, love, mercy, heaven, and hell, she said— "If they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn't be worth understanding." and— "A God you understood would be less than yourself." On the parallels between her own writing and her life as a Christian believer, she wrote— "Writing is a good example of self-abandonment. I never completely forget myself except when I am writing and I am never more completely myself than when I am writing. It is the same with Christian self-abandonment. The great difference between Christianity and the Eastern religions is the Christian insistence on the fulfillment of the individual person." I learned much about the art this woman left us in the short time she had on this earth. She packed much into her mere thirty-nine years and left for us large and garish drawings, that we who are nearly blind might catch sight of the larger invisible truth behind the more visible things around us.

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