This book attempts a close reading of the fiction of Flannery O'Connor, story by story, with one eye on her use of the Bible, and her view of the Bible in relation to her own work. After introductory chapters on O'Connor's markings in her own Roman Catholic Bible, her book reviews in diocesan newspapers, and her impatience with her wayward readers, Michaels looks first at her two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and then at seventeen of her short stories from her two collections, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Michaels takes notice of O'Connor's explicit references to the Bible (or Bibles) in her stories, and looks more particularly to the ways in which the stories are driven at least in part by specific biblical texts. Among the themes that emerge are alienation or displacement, what it means to be "good," the relation between body and spirit and between the Old Testament and the New, issues of race and gender, and above all what O'Connor once called "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil."
"For those who know the Bible well but not literature, J. Ramsey Michaels introduces the wonders of Flannery O'Connor, whose creative stance toward the Bible produced the greatest religious fiction of the twentieth century. For readers of O'Connor searching to better understand where the religiosity is, Michaels is a fine guide. For O'Connor scholars, Michaels reveals the subtleties and complexities of O'Connor's use of various Bible translations."
--Marshall Bruce Gentry, Georgia College
"With deft allusion to O'Connor's biblically informed vision, Michaels offers a pleasurable and informative approach to O'Connor's fiction. The sheer fun of reading O'Connor is enhanced by the lucidly inviting work of this prolific and wise biblical scholar. Connecting like stories, as in the chapter 'Two Gentlemen Callers,' is among the felicities that will get you reading and rethinking the work of an American great. A marvelous achievement!"
--Paul Borgman, Gordon College
J. Ramsey Michaels, Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at Missouri State University in Springfield, now lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has written extensively in New Testament studies, including commentaries on First Peter, Revelation, and Hebrews, and most recently a major work on the Gospel of John. Currently he is preoccupied with Flannery O'Connor, and a commentary of a very different sort.