Don’t close your eyes

by Kevin Birnbaum

Flannery O’Connor was one cool lady, and one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century. A Georgia peacock farmer who died of complications from lupus at 39, she was a master of the short story, and her collected letters reveal a woman who saw to the heart of things and never shied away from defending what she believed, firmly and with charity. She thought deeply about life, faith, and fiction, as shown in this excerpt from her essay “Catholic Novelists and Their Readers,” found in an excellent collection of her “spiritual writings”:

If you shy away from sense experience, you will not be able to read fiction; but you will not be able to apprehend anything else in this world either, because every mystery that reaches the human mind, except in the final stages of contemplative prayer, does so by way of the senses. Christ didn’t redeem us by a direct intellectual act, but became incarnate in human form, and he speaks to us now through the mediation of a visible Church. All this may seem a long way from the subject of fiction, but it is not, for the main concern of the fiction writer is with mystery as it is incarnated in human life.

Photo by Kevin Birnbaum.