Authors We Love: Mary Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O'Connor (Author of A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other ...

Flannery O ‘Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, and graduated from Georgia Women’s College and the University of Iowa. She is a Catholic American novelist, short story writer, and critic. O ‘Connor has written two novels, 32 short stories, and numerous book and film reviews. O ‘Connor is a southern writer whose works have a southern Gothic style and rely heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. O ‘Connor’s work also reflects her Roman Catholic beliefs and often examines questions of morality and ethics. O ‘Connor’s “The Complete Stories” won the National Book Award in 1972, posthumously, and was hailed by online readers as “one of the best American National Book Awards of all time.” Flannery O’Connor is said to have taught her favorite dwarf chicken to walk backwards when she was five years old. The stunt caught the attention of Pathe Studios, and a cameraman from the North was sent to O ‘Connor’s backyard in Savannah, Georgia, to record the stunt. O ‘Connor never saw the funny film, although it was shown in many American cinemas in 1932.

By The time she wrote “The King of The Birds” in 1961, O ‘Connor was a literary and artistic celebrity with a cult following. She made her name by publishing two novels — “Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away” and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Newsweek magazine featured a photograph of O ‘Connor’s pre-World War II home in Milledgeville, GA. Harper’s Bazaar has a rather glamorous portrait of O ‘Connor while her work has also been featured in Vogue. In her work, O ‘Connor depicted the American South. Set mostly in the rural South, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” features at least four main characters — a widowed, conservative old lady and her unsociable daughter — living on a farm. These characters probably have something in common with O ‘Connor and her mother. As time went on, people began to notice that O ‘Connor herself was a devout Roman Catholic, and that her novels seemed to have something to do with religion. In the writings of a collection of essays and a collection of letters published after her death, O ‘Connor not only makes clear her own religious beliefs and the crucial role they play in her work, but also makes detailed interpretations of some of her own novels.

-Coreen C.

Book Review: The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

The Glass Menagerie is a play by Tennessee Williams, an American playwright. It tells the story of an ordinary family in St. Louis during the Great Depression and how to escape the harsh reality and the painful memories that always haunt them. At the time of the story, the father of the family is long gone, but a photograph of him hangs in the center of the stage background. The mother Amanda was preoccupied with the memories of her girlhood visits. The son Tom loved writing and was a worker in a shoe factory. His sister Laura, who was born disabled, is crouched at home and likes to play with her glass animals. Mother asked Tom to find someone to marry for his sister, Tom took his colleague Jim home for dinner. Jim is warm and cheerful, and his visit awakens Laura’s pent-up enthusiasm and temporarily takes her out of the glass world. However, The sudden news that Jim is engaged forces Laura back into her closed world. Amanda blamed her son for this and eventually drove him away in anger.

Amanda, Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie are representatives of a struggling Southern culture. Amanda came from a southern plantation owner’s family and was deeply immersed in southern mythology and culture. In the blooming years of her youth, she had many choices, but she fell in love with her husband the poet because he had a charming smile. Abandoned by her husband shortly after their marriage, Amanda spent her struggling life reminiscing about her ladylike days. In the industrial cities of the time, Amanda could find no place of her own. As a victim of a lost era, all she could do was frantically cling to it. Although Amanda knew that the south of the past had gone forever, she could not get rid of her attachment to the southern culture. She instilled her southern lady values into her daughter over and over again, stubbornly clinging to her beliefs regardless of the progress of time and the development of society.

Amanda’s son Tom and daughter Laura have been living under the shadow of her mother’s declining southern plantation culture, entangled in the contradiction between reality and ideal, until their characters become distorted. Tom’s menial labor was the main source of family income, and in southern culture, such work that was supposed to be done by slaves was not respectable. Nicknamed Shakespeare, Tom has inherited his father’s poetic temperament, a restless heart constantly called from afar, and the only way to cope with a boring shoe factory job, a stressful living environment, and his mother’s nagging is to spend night after night at the cinema. Tom knew that he was responsible for his family, but his dream of being a poet was incompatible with the reality, and his desire to break free and realize himself was so strong. Laura’s plainness and slight deformity of the leg were not a problem, but in a southern culture where women were supposed to please and cling to men by their looks, her disability was a major drawback. It was her mother Amanda’s implicit message to her daughter that led to Laura’s extreme low self-esteem and psychological disorder. The pure and fragile Laura is unable to communicate with people normally, has a pathological fear of the outside world, and is unable to survive on her own. She can only find comfort in a group of delicate and fragile glass animals she has collected. But her spiritual home, The Glass Menagerie, may disappear at any time.

The evil of slavery eventually led to the Civil War, and the defeat of the war was a fatal blow to the proud and confident southerners. Guilt, failure, poverty, and moral depravity became shadows of southern moral consciousness. Southerners consoled themselves by reminiscing and imagining the good old days. Hence the magical southern myth was born, an important part of the southern cultural tradition. The south, with cotton as the main product, enjoyed a stable and prosperous economy, and the people in the south were happy and harmonious. Even black slaves in plantations continued to breed under the protection of white people. There are even some southerners who believe that the mythical south is the real south. Yet conscience-conscious southerners were deep in their hearts torn between love and hate, memories and dreams, pride and fear, clinging and doubt for the sins of their forefathers, slavery, and lynchings.

-Coreen C.

The End of Forever by Lurlene McDaniel

This book is basically about how Erin, the older sister has to cope with Amy, her beloved younger sister’s death. The thing happened when after a very successful show at the theatre, there was a party and Amy offered to buy some food and drinks for the party when there was an accident and after a lot of efforts from the family, they eventually lost her. But another even bigger problem was the question if their family chooses to donate her organs to the hospital where it can be used on other patients who need it.

Facing this challenge, Erin strong opposed it because she wanted to keep a complete body, but her parents thought it wise to donate it after all since Amy was already dead and it’s better than her organs can help somebody. In my opinion, it’s very hard to imagine how Erin finally came to the conclusion that she would agree with this proposition. Imagine, if it’s my own sister I would never let anybody extract her organs and give it to somebody I don’t know.

Through this story, I saw a family getting together and facing this grieving incident at the same time. It is a very healing novel to read for normally a lot of families would give up on their child or blame each other for this accident. However, although everyone is tired, exhausted, or hopeless even, Erin’s parents still chose to tell Erin that it’s not her fault at all, but merely Amy’s carelessness which caused all of this. If every family can just understand the other families more and put themselves in their shoes, wouldn’t a lot of arguments and fights be avoided eventually?

-Coreen C.

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Image result for we are the ants

We all love choices. Okay, sometimes we don’t because we can’t decide. But here is a choice that would get you thinking: Say you have a red button in front of you. Pressing it will save the world from a catastrophe. Not pressing it will destroy the world. Would you press it? I know I would, for the reason that I don’t want anyone to die, along with various other reasons that I could share with numerous other people.

Henry Denton would not press that button because he doesn’t believe the world should be saved. His brother got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. His grandma is getting worse with Alzheimer’s by the day, saying that Henry is dead. His mother is wasting away on weed. He is in a….questionable relationship with his bully. His boyfriend Jared, the boy who brought light into his life, committed suicide without any sign that he was depressed. He hasn’t been in contact with his old friend Audrey in over a year. Worst yet, school used to be fun, but instead of names like “f*g” that he would be okay with being called, he is called “space boy”, since he has been captured and probed by aliens, with no one believing him.

And these aliens, after probing him (not in the butt though), gave him a choice: press the red button, or let the world be destroyed. He is given 144 days to make the choice. And that’s when he meets Diego, a transfer student who is full of secrets, such as why he came to his first day of class and claimed he was a nude model.

To warn younger readers, this book is more on the mature side, as the main character is seriously depressed, among other more trigger themes.

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I wanted to read another book by Hutchinson, since I read The Deathday Letter (Another great book), and I was blown away, not wanting to put down the book until the end. It made me cry, and nothing makes me cry. I was deeply motivated by how the way Henry describes his life, making it interesting and dark at the same time, such as calling humans “ants” because there are 7 billion lives in the world, and every one of them is insignificant. Best yet, his way of describing things is very informal, such as calling the aliens “sluggers”, which makes the book almost as good as books like To Kill a Mockingbird, but set within the 21st century.

Additionally, Henry is not your typical protagonist. He is gay, which is something rare in any character. He is okay with telling people this, which is even rarer. While most people believe in justice, he believes in destruction.

Finally, without revealing too much of the book, I want to share the part I found interesting: After every couple of chapters, Hutchinson puts in what he thinks is going to be the apocalypse from a meteor to my favorite, virtual reality. And as time goes on and Henry starts to question if he should press the button, the theories get sillier. I feel that this greatly reflects how Henry feels about life in general, as he goes from wanting to know how the world is destroyed to not caring at all.

Once again, I really recommend this book if you are looking for something new and interesting to read.

– Megan V, 11th grade

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library