Quoting O’Connor

I’m sorry it’s been quiet around here for a while. “Blog” has been on my weekly list each week for the last few weeks, but I haven’t succeeded in actually doing the task until now. I’ll try to get back to being more regular again!

This week I started a six-week writing course led by Dr Jonathan Rogers. It’s not a for-credit course (those days are behind me now anyway); it’s a for-fun one. It’s because the subject of writing intrigues me and because I want to get better at it.

This week, the focus is on concrete language, and one of our tasks has been to read an essay by Flannery O’Connor entitled “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”. I’m afraid I’ve never warmed to O’Connor’s fiction (that’s what comes of being a happy-endings sort of girl), but I very much enjoyed this essay, as well as some others in the collection that I dipped into today. Her prose reminds me of Lewis’ in its clarity, punchiness, and insight, and I wanted to share some extracts with you.

“The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal to the senses with abstractions. It is a good deal easier for most people to state an abstract idea than to describe and thus re-create some object that they actually see. But the world of the fiction writer is full of matter, and this is what the beginning fiction writers are very loath to create.”

“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.”

“But there’s a certain grain of stupidity that the writer of fiction can hardly do without, and this is the quality of having to stare, of not getting the point at once. The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it….”

“The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can’t make something out of a little experience, you probably won’t be able to make it out of a lot.”

And lastly, this gem on teaching literature from “Total Effect and the Eighth Grade”:

“And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.”

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