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Flannery O'Conner Quotes

Posted by Stacy Reece on

Flannery O'Conner Quotes

 

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

 

“She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”

 

“Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

 

“I write to discover what I know.”

 

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

 

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

 

“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.”

 

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.”

 

“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.”

 

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

 

“I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”

 

“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”

 

“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”

 

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

 

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place... Nothing outside you can give you any place... In yourself right now is all the place you've got.”

 

“People without hope not only don't write novels, but what is more to the point, they don't read them.”

 

“She would've been a good woman," said The Misfit, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

 

“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. When he reads a novel, he wants either his sense tormented or his spirits raised. He wants to be transported, instantly, either to mock damnation or a mock innocence.”

 

“If you don't hunt it down and kill it, it will hunt you down and kill you.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

 

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

 

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

 

“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 old woman was the kind who would not cut down a large old tree because it was a large old tree.”

 

“He loved her because it was his nature to do so, but there were times when he could not endure her love for him. There were times when it became nothing but pure idiot mystery...”

 

 

 

“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”

 

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child's faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.

 

What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you fell you can't believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. ”

 

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

 

“I love a lot of people, understand none of them...”

 

“Your criticism sounds to me as if you have read too many critical books and are too smart in an artificial, destructive, and very limited way.”

 

“If you live today, you breath in nihilism ... it's the gas you breathe. If I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.”

 

“Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you.”

 

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

 

“It's easier to bleed than sweat, Mr. Motes.”

 

“I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.”

 

“The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience.”

 

“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. Where is there a place for you to be? No place.

 

Nothing outside you can give you any place," he said. "You needn't look at the sky because it's not going to open up and show no place behind it. You needn't to search for any hole in the ground to look through into somewhere else. You can't go neither forwards nor backwards into your daddy's time nor your children's if you have them. In yourself right now is all the place you've got. If there was any Fall, look there, if there was any Redemption, look there, and if you expect any Judgment, look there, because they all three will have to be in your time and your body and where in your time and your body can they be?”

 

“All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.”

 

“The Catholic novelist in the South will see many distorted images of Christ, but he will certainly feel that a distorted image of Christ is better than no image at all. I think he will feel a good deal more kinship with backwoods prophets and shouting fundamentalists than he will with those politer elements for whom the supernatural is an embarrassment and for whom religion has become a department of sociology or culture or personality development.”

 

“Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive worthy expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliche or a smoothing down that will soften their real look.”

 

“He and the girl had almost nothing to say to each other. One thing he did say was, 'I ain't got any tattoo on my back.'

 

 

'Haw, haw,' the girl said politely.”

 

“There are all kinds of truth ... but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there's no truth.”

 

“To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility . . .”

 

“I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

 

“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.”

 

“Conviction without experience makes for harshness. ”

 

“Children know by instinct that hell is an absence of love, and they can pick out theirs without missing.”

 

“Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.”

 

“Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn't convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.”

 

 


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