Penetrating the World As It Is

“Ever since there have been such things as novels, the world has been flooded with bad fiction for which the religious impulse has been responsible. The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality.

“He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible. His feeling about this may have been made more definite by one of those Manichean-type theologies which sees the natural world as unworthy of penetration. But the real novelist, the one with an instinct for what he is about, knows that he cannot approach the infinite directly, that he must penetrate the natural human world as it is.”

Flannery O’Connor

HT: Reinke and Taylor


  1. I, on the other hand, cannot penetrate those paragraphs, but that’s just me.

    I’ve never read anything of hers, but I read this on a biblical blog I follow (one of the Pyro guys) and wondered how you would respond to it:

    “I know I brand myself as a literary Flintstone when I say that, but I’m sticking with it. I’d heard and heard about what a deep, wonderful Christian author O’Connor was, so I read a stack-full of her stories. First, I learned she wasn’t Christian, she was Roman Catholic. Second, those stories were the most joyless, loveless, graceless, hopeless piles of darkness I can recall reading. I wanted a shower. They made Stephen King look like the gaily-skipping, daisy-flinging Joel Osteen of horror writers.”

  2. Wow. I’m guessing Dan. I’ll have to talk to him at an upcoming conference. (I met him a couple of years back.)

    I haven’t read a lot of her fiction, and am not a huge fan. But she demonstrates such insight in her essays on art and writing, that I appreciate her profoundly.

    But I’m too much of a novice to comment much. Sorry!

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