I am surrounded by books. They are in my home and in my mind. I have left them scattered wherever I have lived. I have given them as gifts to the willing and also left them behind with friends by accident on and on purpose when they were not willing.
Most of my books have been momentary romances, temporary, fleeting loves or fun flirtations from which I walk away easily. But amongst the few books that are always with me Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories is the one I seem to cherish the most.
I am not a stupid man, but I continually reach for that book to read a story; then I re-read, and then read it yet again until I have -- over the course of several months -- re-read the same short story a half-a-dozen or more times as if I were a regular simpleton. I have carried on love affairs with story after story; The Enduring Chill, The Comforts of Home, The Lame Shall Enter First and my long-standing love The Partridge Festival . . .
“Twice they called him ‘Baby Lamb’ ”
I trot from the worship of one story to the next, never daring to tell the new affection about the one that preceded it. I am the “town pump” of The Complete Stories and I have been had every which way a reader can be had.
In my defense, I admire and adore the stories from works like J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories and the sublime Winesburg, Ohio. There is a withering, haunting, and cruel beauty in a vignette likeHands. But you only need to read it a single time -- maybe twice -- to wring the satisfaction out of it sufficiently enough to carry it with you for your entire life. It’s not like that with the best O’Connor stories. O’Connor doesn’t give it up like that.
I was in love with her stories before I realized what it was that I loved about them.
She has a grip on me because she writes about one of my great fascinations in real life; smart people doing really stupid things. The stupidity of her smart characters like Asbury, Sheppard, and Calhoun seem all too real to me.
Since Flannery O’Connor’s work is not in the public domain, I recommend you buy her book because it cannot be offered freely here or anywhere else. If you are looking for a great short story to read, try a selection for 100 Great Short Stories.