I don't know what all's in this collection anymore, although I'm sure "A Good Man is Hard To Find" is one. [Edit: It isn't, and I'm sorry, but it's too much like work to switch this review. But the stories in this collection are no less powerful than that one I go on about here, especially "Everything That Rises Must Converge".] I'm not going to talk about the other two stories - that is up to you to read them. I loves Flannery O'Connor, for some of the weirdest reasons known to woman, and mostly because my mother loved O'Connor, and I have all these frowsy memories of Mum quoting her. She would quote stuff that just made no sense, like:
"Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground, and Georgia is a lousy state too."
"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
I had a boss at a frame shop, where I worked coming out of adolescence and into matriculation. He was an odd mix of Texas and Minnesota, and it's hard to describe him without slipping into the oddest caricature around. Degree in economics, straight-ticket Republican, dog-crazy, football-crazy. As I was a died in the wool liberal, he loved to razz me, but it was companionable, kind. We'd fight over radio stations and settle on classic rock, and then horrify one another with our tastes. How can you stand America??? I'd ask. How can you stand Springsteen??? he'd retort. We had the same taste in movies, weirdly, except for a mob fetish of his that I didn't share. I quoted him the Misfit once, talking about a love affair of his that had gone badly, with a woman who was a pharmaceutical rep whose name was Esther. He called her Pester.
She had been straight up awful at the company Christmas party several months previous. Me and Gary smoked out the back door and my husband drank the single malt that my boss had really generously given him. Pester soliloquized about the drug industry, and we all sat back on our heels and nodded, and pulled hard on our drinks. Anyway, so I quoted this to him later, the thing about dying making you better, more ethical, and we talked for about an hour as we cut mats and glued, about how tragedy is changing. His father had died of some horrible thing, something undiagnosed, and he lived in the shadow of that death and fear. I'm not sure he'll ever get out. He's a good man.
There's that thing people say about the trials of life. They're quoting from Nietzsche, even though they don't know it. "That which does not kill us only makes us stronger." Sometimes it just kills us though, though we are stronger at the moment of death. Or weaker. The weakest. It's almost impossible to say which adjective is the right one. Maybe all of them at once.
Mum taught this several times over her long teaching career, and one of the funniest moments was when a student put on the test: the Grandmother had worn gloves so they would know she was a woman. Hahaha. No, the Grandmother wore gloves so they'd know she was a lady
, which may be a lost distinction on 18 year old community college students in the Midwest. Put them on, the gloves, and then get ready for dying. That's when we'll see what we are. A good man may be hard to find, but a good woman...we don't know until we shoot her. Brilliant.