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Grace hurts

Conversion in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction

Idiosyncrasy is the hallmark of the great artist. The individual flourishes that denote a grand imagination almost always appear as interruptions in a bland marketplace, diverging from the prevailing philosophical, aesthetic or narrative standards of the day. In Tolstoy, an ambivalence toward straightforward plot reveals itself as he continuously derails his stories to show us characters dancing, threshing, simply stopping in the woods—almost as if he can’t stop the overflow of abundant life into his prose. In Faulkner, the reader finds the inspired devolution of prose into poetry, that more primitive expression of our fundamental emotions. Lawrence was given to tautological, almost liturgical repetitions quite unique to him, Chekhov to an abiding compassion that seemed to love character and experience more than form—in particular, tidily conventional denouement—and David Foster Wallace to a hyperkinetic prose that refused the placidity and quietness of the more realist novel.


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