By Dan Clendenin
This 97-minute documentary film premiered on March 23, 2021 as part of the PBS “American Masters” series. My wife and I watched the film from the PBS website. When Flannery O’Connor died from lupus at the age of thirty-nine, she had published a modest amount of work — two novels, thirty-one short stories, and some essays and reviews. That was more than enough to establish her reputation as one of America’s greatest fiction writers. There have been two hundred doctoral dissertations, seventy book length studies of her work, a recent critical biography (see below), and now this award-winning film. O’Connor was also decidedly Christian. She attended daily mass most of her adult life, and described herself as “a thirteenth century Christian” and “hermit novelist.” She read broadly and deeply in Aquinas and other theologians. For her, the craft of her art — good stories well told — was an end in itself and a sign of God’s grace. The content of her fiction was her confession of faith: “My subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil.” To those who complained about her grotesque and deeply flawed characters, like her mother who asked why she couldn’t write about “nice people,” she insisted that “there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.” For more on O’Connor, see my reviews of Brad Gooch, Flannery; A Life of Flannery O’Connor (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009), 448pp; and Flannery O’Connor, A Prayer Journal (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), 96pp.
Dan Clendenin: email@example.com
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