Saturday, November 16, 2013

This slender, charming book must be approached with a special tact. To read it feels a little like an intrusion on inwardness itself. The volume contains, alongside a lightly corrected transcription, a facsimile of the Sterling notebook in which Flannery O’Connor, just 20 years old, began a journal addressed to God. Written in her neat hand, it is reproduced complete with the empty final pages (her concluding words are “there is nothing left to say of me”) and not omitting a bit of musical notation floating on the inside of the back cover. The prayers, attempts at prayer and meditations on faith and art contained in it were written in 1946 and 1947, while O’Connor was a student in Iowa. The brilliance that would make her fictions literary classics is fully apparent in them.

The complexity of O’Connor’s thinking, together with the largely flawless pages in her hand, suggest that these entries may be fair copies of earlier drafts. Clearly O’Connor’s virtuosity makes her self-­conscious. Young as she was, new to writing, she could only have been pleased, even awed, at having produced these beautiful sentences. Perhaps nothing written is finally meant to go unread, even if the reader is only a creature of the writer’s mind, an attentive and exacting self that compels refinements of honesty.

Read it all.

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