- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Flannery O’Connor on Art, Writing, Stories, Truth, and More.

 

Happy birthday, Flannery O’Connor! Here are some quotes from the author’s writing:

 

“If you know who you are, you can go anywhere.”

 

“In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.”

 

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”

 

“No art is sunk in the self, but rather, in art the self becomes self-forgetful in order to meet the demands of the thing seen and the thing being made.”

 

“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”

 

“The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode.”

 

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

 

“Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me.”

 

“Harcourt sent my book to Evelyn Waugh and his comment was: ‘If this is really the unaided work of a young lady, it is a remarkable product.’ My mother was vastly insulted. She put the emphasis on if and lady. Does he suppose you’re not a lady? she says. Who is he?”

 

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”

 

“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.”

 

“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”

 

“I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”

 

“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”

 

“Your letter gave me the sense that you couldn’t work for watching yourself work. I may be wrong but if that happens it is time to leave Walden Pond and seek out society.”

 

“Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe.”

 

“I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”

 

“There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

 

“Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.”

 

“I believe there are as many types of saints as there are souls to be saved.”

 

“Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”

 

“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”

 

“Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding.”

 

“People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience.”

 

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”

 

“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”

 

“Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”

 

“She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”

 

“Living had got to be such a habit with him that he couldn’t conceive of any other condition.”

 

“We might all be destroyed by a hurricane. I can always find something to be thankful for.”

 

“The body, lady, is like a house: it don’t go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like a automobile: always on the move.”

 

“The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.”

 

“It does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but the little it takes is long in coming.”

 

“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial […] I can’t think of anybody else’s that it might remind you of. Nobody would have been found dead writing it but me…”

 

“There won’t be any biographies of me, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken farm do not make for exciting copy.”

 

“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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