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A Prayer Journal Hardcover – 12 Nov 2013
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"When I read Flannery O'Connor, I do not think of Hemingway, or Katherine Anne Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles. What more can you say for a writer?" --Thomas Merton
"This slender, charming book must be approached with a special tact. To read it feels a little like an intrusion on inwardness itself . . . The brilliance that would make [O'Connor's] fictions literary classics is fully apparent . . . ["A Prayer Journal"] is as eloquent on the subject of creativity as it is on the subject of prayer . . . The prose is absolutely brilliant, sentence by sentence, simile by simile . . . relentlessly inventive . . . [O'Connor's] religious sincerity is beyond question, but the forms of its expression raise many questions. This is no criticism. It is the honorable work of any writer who touches on great matters to provoke . . . This little journal puts its reader a step closer to one touching and remarkable young mind." --Marilynne Robinson, "The New York Times Book Review"
"Miraculous . . . Both a blueprint for her fiction and a prophetic dreaming-out of her life's purpose and pattern . . . Beneath the surface, as recorded on the 47 and a half handwritten pages to which we now have access, [O'Connor] was refining her vocation with the muscularity and spiritual ferocity of a young saint-in-waiting." --James Parker, "The Atlantic"
"A startlingly different view of the religious O'Connor." --Marian Ryan, "Slate"
"If you've already read everything ever written by Flannery O'Connor and crave more, take heart: This recently discovered diary of her long-form letters to God will make you
especially thankful." --Abbe Wright, "O: The Oprah Magazine"
"Perhaps the most intimate writing that has yet surfaced from O'Connor." --Bo Emerson, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
"Religious or not, the daily devotionals written by one of America's greatest writers between 1946 and 1947 are uplifting and inspiring, as well as a great insight into the mind of Flannery O'Connor." --Jason Diamond, "Flavorpill," 10 Must Reads for November
"Gorgeous" --Leon Wieseltier, "The New Republic"
"A fascinating prospect for anyone with an interest in O'Connor's writing, inseparable as it is from her Catholic belief in sin and redemption." --Mark O'Connell, "The Millions"
"I love the O'Connor that shines through these pages . . . Witty . . . Deeply earnest." --Betsy Childs, "First Things"
"This stirring collection of prayers and reflections provides another crucial piece in the enduringly mysterious and endlessly intriguing puzzle that was Flannery O'Connor's life." --Lorraine V. Murray, "The Georgia Bulletin"
"["A Prayer Journal"] offers an honest, intimate, humorous, mysterious, and comforting view into the mind and heart of one of America's greatest writers." --Word on Fire Catholic Ministries
"O'Connor had said, 'I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.' ["A Prayer Journal"] should be a fine place to see the inner life of one of America's finest fiction writers in history, and an unwavering Christian, as she experiences that haunting herself." --Bible Portal, ChristianPost.com
"These excerpts are raw revelations of a devout young person's struggle . . . You can hear the push and pull, the train of her particular Christianity on a brilliant mind." --Amy Frykholm, "The Christian Century Blog"
"Have you ever read something . . . so sublime that it was hard to talk about with anything resembling coherence. If so, then you'll understand why it is so difficult to articulate my experience of reading Flannery O'Connor's intimate and soul-baring "A Prayer Journal." I closed the book with a combination of awed silence and heart-soaring joy." --Angela Cybulski, Dappled Things: A Quarterly Journal of Ideas, Art, & Faith
"A collection of poignant, lyrical letters to God, written passionately and honestly . . . Many readers may breathe a sigh of relief to learn [O'Connor] had trouble praying. Not that I would wish this on anyone, but her admission makes her less of an untouchable, perfect icon of faith . . . I pray that many readers will experience, as I have, a resounding joy in reading the words of this beloved author again after so many years." --Lorraine Murray, IntegratedCatholicLife.org
"There's metaphysical mystery at the heart of this short journal . . . as well as the seeds of the spiritual life force that coursed through [O'Connor's] fiction." --"Kirkus Reviews"
"[The prayers are] astutely crafted and reveal a masterful writer at work." --"Publishers Weekly"
About the Author
Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. A devoted Catholic, she lived most of her life on a farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she raised peacocks and wrote. She was the author of two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away; thrity-one short stories; and numerous essays and reviews. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. Her complete short stories, published posthumously in 1971, received the National Book Award for fiction.
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However, cynically, I wondered who tore out the missing pages - was it the publishers themselves(to keep the journal focused on he writing prayers) and were they really missing when the journal was found? I'm not a fan of living celebreties biographies and advice books - but O'Connor is no longer living, and her talent has stood the test of time. Thus, this journal could have been a great inspiration to unpublished authors. It is fascinating seeing her insecurities & ambition laid bare. I did, however, expect a prayer journal to cover other aspects of her life, and that was missing from this very short book. I did, however, like the photocopies of the actual journal and seeing her actual handwriting.
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It should be judged by its texture and depth. And for this reason I consider the book to be essential. The prayers O'Connor has written create a landscape for prayer utterly original in the Christian tradition, if also deeply embedded in it.
I am reading one prayer per night, sometimes two. They are leading me into new spiritual insights each time. I see myself in new ways through her prayers.
The book also includes a facsimile of the journal itself. It's really a pleasure to be able to see her hand-writing first hand, to imagine her as a young student writing each day in this journal.
I guarantee if you buy this book, when it arrives, you will do more than read it. You will cherish it.
Requiescat in pace, Miss O'Connor.
The first half of "A Prayer Journal" is introduced by W.A. Sessions, who visited and corresponded with O'Connor during those years. Then for the next several pages are the prayers of O'Connor, aesthetically cleaned up and mildly re-punctuated. The last half presents facsimiles of the original handwritten journal.
The prayers show the soul-wrestling of a young woman who believed, and prayed God to help her unbelief, "Dear God, I don't want to have invented my faith to satisfy my weakness. I don't want to have created God to my own image as they are fond of saying" (16). At times they contain a depth beyond her chronological years, "No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons" (25). And at other times they reveal how human and "normal" the young woman was, "My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me...There is nothing left to say of me" (40).
In the end, "A Prayer Journal" will add some flesh and calico to a reader's conception of who Flannery O'Connor was. More often than not, you will likely find yourself adding your own "Amen" to her prayers. For example, while writing about heaven, she pleads "I don't want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in" (6). This is a worthwhile manuscript to pick up and read, especially for fellow O'Connor lovers.