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Everything That Rises Must Converge [Paperback]

Flannery O'Connor
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Aug 1996 0374504644 978-0374504649 Reprint
Flannery O'Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.


Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc; Reprint edition (1 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374504644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374504649
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 512,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925. When she died at the age of 39, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. O'Connor is also the author of The Violent Bear It Away (1960) and Wise Blood (1962).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part of the 'LOST' bookclub 25 July 2009
By Rosey Lea TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Yes, I bought this book because it was referenced in the TV show 'Lost'.

My heart sank when it arrived. It's a collection of the author's 'classic American short stories', written in the 1950s and 1960s. The 'classic American short story' is a genre I absolutely can't abide. I loathe it. And there was no clue in Lost as to which of the stories Jacob was actually reading... I decided to just read the damn thing until I got to the right one.

I'm so glad I did. Right from the start I found it was no chore to read every story in this book. These stories were compelling, moving and most of all they subtly suggested questions to the reader which can never be answered, just contemplated. Once I found what I believe is the Lost reference, I happily continued reading to the end of the book. Although I'll never be a fan of the genre, I'll defibately be reading more of Flannery O'Connor's work.

It seems unfair to leave the name of the short story I believe is the Lost reference here in this review. I don't want to risk spoiling the discovery for anyone. But incase anyone wants the name, to save them reading the book, I'll leave it as a comment against this review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of writing. 3 Feb 2012
Format:Audio Cassette
Well I tell you one thing she can write. This woman was of exceptional cleverness and writes of characters of her era and ones that live around us now. She rights of the human condition and the darkness of the heart. These story have humor thrown in she tries to give us a view of how we behave and how insanely stupid and careless we can be. How love blinds and evil destroys, how good can only prosper.
She writes of parenthood, guilt, obsession, control freaks, the sick, the despondent, vengeance, redemption, love, compassion and love.
She has been said to be a catholic writer and mentions God and Jesus and themes of redemption. She does not throw it down your throat but adds light on how people behave.
There are a few stories here that that have characters who behave in a fascist manner and used words, N words, that readers might find offensive. The only reason, her being a catholic, in writing with these words and characters can only be to shock and show the reader how on can look like from the outside.
She was capable of so much more, died at a young age of 39 due to Lupus. A gifted writer on the horror and joys of our behavior as people.
Think of some of Stephen Kings stories but realistically told.

I listened to this on audiobook via audible and was really a wonderful listen, it had quite a few voices with southern accents that added to making it enjoyable and easy listening.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Everything that rises must converge 20 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
9 separate stories drawn from the author's experience of her local experience, like modern 'morality plays', rather dark, but they make a point
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best in the genre 12 Jun 2003
By Brian Carpenter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My copy of _Everything That Rises Must Converge_ has been shouting at me from high up on my bookshelf for several years now. I don't know when I picked up this book; in the dark ages, I suppose, back when I appreciated no book more than the Bible, and most books less than Louis L'Amour's _Sackett's Land_. But my book keeps yelling. "Hey ...!" it says. "I'm getting booklice up here! What are you reading that [book] for ...?"--Don't be too alarmed. All of O'Connor's books shout at readers that way.
Do you want to know something, though? The book has a pretty good reason to shout. Although it's been months since I finally read the collection, it hasn't quieted down. Moreover, I've grown appreciative of its company.
_Everything that Rises..._ was released after O'Connor's death. The hallmark story leads a parade of nine others, a veritable Mardi-Gras of intellectuals, petulants, vindictives, intolerants, and misconceivers, all down a path toward redemption, and thankfully, all with their shirts _on_ (except for that one guy with the tattoo, of course).
"Theology--ugh. Stop saying 'redemption'," some readers holler. Fortunately, O'Connor's theology is well-masked. In fact, I had to read her biography, look at her essays, and dig with a backhoe before I located any theology. But I found it. It was hiding there in plain sight, and once I saw it, I wondered that I had ever missed it. I had trouble locating her theology because O'Connor has a habit of flaying peoples' minds to reveal their darker side. And when you flay somebody's mind, well, to quote Lady Macbeth, "Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?" Wait now--before you shout "Violence--ugh. Stop saying 'flay'," I need to tell you about her work.
O'Connor uses no words of mystery. That woman was club-thumping blunt. If you prefer stories that wash down pleasantly with watercress sandwiches and Darjeeling, then you'd better find your authors elsewhere. However, if you need something that brands your soul, and if you want the burn to last a long, long time, then read this collection.
O'Connor was passionate about two things in her life (well, three things actually, if you count large domesticated birds, but that's for another review): she loved her religion, and she loved the South. Her writing feels the effects of both. If the South provides the actual meat and potatoes of the story, then her Catholicism provides the salt, without which her stories truly might have been intolerable.

The South is not just a home for O'Connor. The south looms over her writing like a half-ton gorilla. But in a good way. Her region gives her work location, yes, but more importantly a sense of history, and of direction. She was fiercely unrepentant of her Southern heritage, at least in terms of its importance to her craft. Her collection of essays asserts that her Southern characters were grotesque because of their bad manners, yet to her, "bad manners are preferable to no manners at all."
Her work is equally tempered by her fierce Catholicism. In this age, where the church itself is virtually anathema, readers may be surprised that O'Connor attended Mass nearly every day of her life.
O'Connor is unrelenting in her work to provide situations of redemption and grace to broken people, and just in case the reader accidentally misses her point, she makes her characters very ugly and her redemptions--well, the only word to describe an O'Connor redemption is violent. O'Connor's God is not a bubbly, bearded Gnome who dances with pixies at lake's edge. _Her_ God whomps you on the head with a plank, because _someone_ hasn't been paying attention in Life 101. Pow! Redemption!
This concept may be difficult for Protestant readers, because we are often quick to identify grace as a gift from the God of mercy. We do well, therefore, to read this Catholic, who reminds us that grace is doled out by a God who is just. I guess I am telling you this because O'Connor's characters don't fall off cliff because it was determined that way--her characters fall because they are so fallen in the first place. They fall because of the inevitability of the character's nature. Humankind, in O'Connor's opinion, needs the occasional swift kick-in-the-pants to return them to a state of grace before God. Besides, is it not infinitely more pleasurable to watch the Coyote fall into the canyon when his hand-made Acme hang-glider collapses, than to endure the Care-Bears' fight against the bad, evil meanies, with the power of good?
Robert Fitzgerald assembled a 25-page introduction to this work. Despite its length, Fitzgerald's piece is probably the best biographical account on the market, and is certainly a useful look at the work it precedes. However, Fitzgerald, like too many writers of forewords, assumes too much knowledge of O'Connor's works on the part of the reader. He supposes we have heard of Taulkingham, or of Ruby Turpin, or Hazel Motes. We will not encounter these people in the present work, and the extra names and plot summaries only get in the way. Fitzgerald is dead, though, so I guess he won't be changing the introduction any time soon.
O'Connor's works are audacious and skilled. Occasionally, the reader can spot the thorns popping through the seams of some of the stories, due to her untimely death. It is evident to the reader that a few of these stories needed more rubbing and polishing. Yet, one by one, O'Connor's characters, depraved sons-of-guns one and all, limp through their metronome world until they are ultimately redeemed by their God. The intensity of reader's experience does not slacken until the last page.
I think this explains why _Everything that Rises Must Converge_ still shouts at me. And it will shout at you, to remind you that you are fallen, too--"Hey stupid! Put down your pen and read me again!"
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars O'Connor's Castigation of Bigots 9 July 2000
By S. DEMILLE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What's the difference between a good and bad story? One will cause you to ponder its message long after you read it while the other will do nothing more than fill time. I did my share of pondering after reading each of Flannery's stories in this collection.
The stories, for the most part, take place in the rural South, where we hear the bleating of sheep, the snorting of pigs, and the mooing of cows. There is a narrow, but effective, variety of characters portrayed, from landowner to squatter, from black to white. The stories simmer with a religious flavor, and those who are religious seem to be either haughty and self-righteous or hopelessly naive. The religious bigots think their medicine is best and should be taken by everyone, while they themselves are really the ones "in need of a physician." The intellectuals weave throughout a story or two, and like some of the religious ones, they treat those around them with disdain and downright viciousness. The characters seldom remain unscathed, however. Divine justice usually swoops down and executes revenge upon them, either directly or indirectly. This revenge often tends toward the grotesque, and I often finished a story with my jaw hanging open. Now I can't wait to digest her complete collection.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Floundering around in the thoughts of various unsavory characters." 8 Feb 2006
By D. Cloyce Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For her first collection of stories ("A Good Man Is Hard to Find"), O'Connor gathered an assortment that had been previously published in magazines; the result was a fascinating, but unsystematic, potpourri of experimentation and originality. As she prepared the stories for "Everything That Rise Must Converge," however, she instead developed each selection under a thematic framework. (Only the last two stories, which were literally rushed to completion as she lay on her deathbed, seem to stand a bit apart.) The collection as a whole, even more than her previous fiction, emphasizes the absurdities and monstrosities of everyday life and the tension between the demands of the self and the mystery of the divine presence.

One of O'Connor's primary mentors for her approach to fiction was, surprisingly, James Joyce (and, specifically, "Dubliners"), and his influence is nowhere more obvious than in this book. In one story ("The Enduring Chill"), she pokes fun at Joyce's worldview in an exchange between an artist and a priest. She was surely alienated by Joyce's un-Catholic sentiments, but she acknowledged his influence in her essay "The Nature and Aim of Fiction": "The major difference between the novel as written in the eighteenth century and the novel as we usually find it today is the disappearance from it of the author. . . . By the time we get to James Joyce, the author is nowhere to be found in the book. The reader is on his own, floundering around in the thoughts of various unsavory characters."

"Unsavory characters" are, without doubt, O'Connor's specialty. Yet, is O'Connor effectively able to remove herself from her narratives? Do the stories in this collection succeed, as she intended, as a thematically linked sequence? And, aside from her stated literary goals, are these stories really that good?

Well, on the first two counts, the results are mixed. In spite of her intentions, O'Connor's presence crowds several of these stories. In "The Lame Shall Enter First" (my own favorite), a vague didacticism is obvious both in O'Connor's not-very-subtle manipulation of events and in the story's portrayals of the juvenile delinquent Rufus Johnson and his mentor Sheppard, a Good Samaritan wannabe. Yet O'Connor steps back just enough to allow the story itself to convey the depth of Sheppard's moral collapse. The less successful "Parker's Back" (one of the deathbed stories) concerns a "trailer trash" husband who, much to his wife's dismay, gets a tattoo of Jesus Christ inked on his back. It's one of O'Connor's more brilliant scenarios, but the psychological sermonizing of the omniscient narrator is a bit heavy-handed. The author is everywhere to be found in this story.

As for the collection's coherence: O'Connor moral vision is certainly more easily discernible in this book than in any of her previous works. But, like the "Lives of the Saints" she so cherished, O'Connor's hagiography of sinners, read back to back, occasionally suffers from a certain formulaic uniformity and predictability. Still, each story, enjoyed at random on its own, has the potential for being your "favorite O'Connor story"-and it's hard to find two readers who will agree on which stories in this collection are best. As a collection, then, it's a bit tame. Individually, however, the stories really are that good.

Throughout her career, O'Connor invented a gallery of memorable reprobates and unlikely prophets. Whether read separately or as a cycle, these nine stories add much to her unique legacy. And the collection will also help clear the air for readers (like me) who had always been enchanted by O'Connor's works of fiction but perplexed by critics who stress their theological and symbolic underpinnings.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oddly beautiful 15 Nov 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I nearly fell out of my chair when I began reading this collection. I then read it cover-to-cover in a single sitting. It is difficult to describe O'Connor's style, simply because it is so infinitely unique. "Visceral" is a start, but it falsely suggests an explicit rendering of detail and emotion. Rather, the stories are written with an odd, and even ethereal, detachment. Each story surprises and frightens you; and, as you finish one, you find that you must read the next. It is a strange spell. The characters seem so exaggerated, yet palpable and familiar. I do wonder why Flannery O'Connor isn't read more. Her writing is so taut and finely tuned; her stories disturbing, haunting, and ineffably sad.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's More Here than Southern Catholicism 6 Feb 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
According to most critical opinion, Flannery O'Connor was one of the greatest writers of fiction that America has ever produced. When it comes to Southern writers, they say, she's right up there with the Nobel prizewinner William Faulkner, and if she had lived there's no telling what brilliance might have come from her.

I don't necessarily doubt any of this. The thing that bugs me is that those same critical opinions spend all kinds of time reflecting on the fact that O'Connor's stories, being the work of a Southern Catholic, are all about God and His grace, although her notion of grace is more scary than anything else. This leaves a strong temptation to read her work, including the stories in "Everything That Rises Must Converge", looking for the religious elements. You can find yourself altogether missing whatever else might be in the work that way.

So excuse me for a moment if I back up and cover the work on the page. We'll get back to the discomforts of grace later.

What struck me most about these characters is how angry and/or frightened they are, partly because their society is changing under their feet and partly for more personal reasons. Some seek to take a less patronizing attitude toward blacks and poor whites, others want to pretend that nothing has changed. Some resist urbanization, others embrace it. Some cleave to the old-time religion and others find substitutes. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, husbands and wives struggle with their roles. Eventually, it seems, everyone in these stories crashes headlong into his or her opposite number and the result is usually violent.

The title story is a good example - a woman on the far side of middle age takes a bus to the YMCA for a reducing class and brings her adult son along because she's uneasy about traveling alone. The son finds this a horrible imposition, as he finds most of his mother's actions and demands; he has had a college education and her class consciousness drives him crazy, especially since the family no longer has the means it once did. A black woman wearing the same hat as the mother gets on the bus, a circumstance that the son tries to use to embarrass the mother. She doesn't seem to notice. Instead, she allows herself to be charmed by the black woman's little boy and tries to give him a coin. I'll leave the upshot of all this for you to find out, but although the events are pretty simple, the underlying meaning of it all goes very deep.

As a matter of fact, that very depth may have been O'Connor's greatest gift. Her narrative, even when describing the character's inner lives, remains simple and mostly declarative (so much for the comparison with Faulkner), and this very simplicity sets off amazing echoes in your mind. Many of her titles do the same - "The Endless Chill," "The Lame Shall Enter First," and of course "Everything That Rises Must Converge". That last phrase comes from a writing by the turn-of-the-century Catholic writer Teilhard de Chardin, a notion he offered as a sort of alternative to evolution. It signifies that any being reaching toward consciousness approaches a single point as it does so, that point being God. Which seems like a rather hopeful process, except that if everything does converge on God, there are bound to be a few bumps.

This is a good place to return to O'Connor's religious angle on her stories and on life. She said that a serious writer would consider a story in which everything is explained - in which the characters have sufficient motivation for what they do - to be too simple to bother with, and that it's only after an author has seen to character motivation, plot structure, language, description and all such virtues that a story has a chance of revealing any of that necessary sense of mystery. When it comes to life, she said that although we are only saved by grace (undeserved favor), grace changes us and change is always uncomfortable or even frightening. These ideas certainly explain the bumps mentioned above, not to mention the violence. In other words, whether you agree that a good story leaves some matters unexplained, or that grace is necessary for salvation, or any of O'Connor's other ideas, at the very least she worked to express herself as completely as she could in the short time she had. The rest of us could do worse than emulate her.

But what about the stories themselves? Someone once said that whereas some stories go down smooth and contribute little, like cotton candy, other stories must be thoroughly chewed and nourish us well, like steak. By now it's pretty clear where Flannery O'Connor lands on that continuum. Her characters find humiliation, disappointment, fear and sometimes death. They lose homes, self-respect, parents and even children. These stories are hard to take. Then again, whatever they go through, these people sometimes learn something valuable even if they're not always aware of it.

This is where that critical emphasis or the author's religious beliefs comes in handy. If her great theme is, as it seems to be, the hidden workings of grace in human life, it makes a certain amount of sense that neither the characters nor the reader can perceive it right away. If nothing else, finding the meaning here is an intriguing intellectual exercise, but of course it's also a challenge to have more respect for these characters than your prejudices might otherwise allow.

For all her virtues, Flannery O'Connor is emphatically not for everyone - I haven't quite figured out whether she's for me. I'm nevertheless grateful that there was someone out there who dared me to make up my mind about that. It's kind of nice to run across a writer who doesn't beg for your approval.

Benshlomo says, Good friends will fight with you if necessary.
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