Considered an important voice in American literature, O'Connor wrote two novels, 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer in the vein of William Faulkner, often writing in a Southern Gothic style and relying heavily on regional settings and grotesques as characters.
Ms. O'Connor, because of her relatively small literary output, remains a minor writer in the Western canon, but one hugely talented, with much unfulfilled potential due to her early death.
Her fans often claim that her relative lack of popularity is due primarily to the fact that she was a devout Roman Catholic who wrote extensively on the subject of grace and its less-than-willing recipients, much like Graham Greene. But she was never very popular with Catholics, and still isn't, due to two factors. First, most of her characters were either Protestants or irreligious. Second, and more importantly, her stories were, at least on the surface, about very ugly subjects; O'Connor often saw hints of the divine in murderers, con artists and suicidal children. She often lectured against the tendency of Catholics to confuse saccharine inspirational stories with good fiction, going so far as to criticize the literary talents of Francis Cardinal Spellman.
Her father, Edward O'Connor, was diagnosed with lupus in 1937; he died on the first of February, 1941. Mary Flannery, the couple's only child, was devastated, and rarely spoke of him in later years. Flannery described herself as a "pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I'll-bite-you complex."
As a child she was in the local newspapers when a chicken that she owned could walk backwards. She said, "That was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It's all been downhill from there."
Ms. O'Connor attended Peabody High School, from which she graduated in 1942. She entered Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College & State University), where she majored in English and Sociology, the latter a perspective she satirized effectively in novels such as The Violent Bear It Away.
In 1946 Flannery O'Connor was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop.
In 1949 O'Connor met and eventually accepted an invitation to stay with Robert Fitzgerald (trans. of Greek epic plays and poems, including Oedipus Rex and both the Odyssey and the Iliad) and his wife, Sally, in rural Connecticut.
O'Connor lived on a large farm where she raised and nurtured some 100 peacocks, and images of peacocks are often found on her books. She was obsessed with birds of all kinds and raised ducks, hens, geese, and any sort of exotic bird she could get a hold of.
Despite the fact that she had no known love affairs and lived a rather sheltered life, her writing reveals an almost uncanny grasp of the nuances of human behavior. However, The Habit of Being hints at a possible lesbian relationship. O'Connor's suggestion that Catholics have to accept suffering from their Church as well as for it seems to support this allegation.
The Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, named in honor of O'Connor, is a prize given annually to an outstanding collection of short stories.
- Wise Blood, 1952
- A Good Man Is Hard To Find, 1955
- The Violent Bear It Away, 1960
- A Memoir of Mary Ann (Editor and author of introduction), 1962
- Three by Flannery O'Connor, 1964
- Everything That Rises Must Converge, 1965
- Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, Edited by Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald, 1969
- The Complete Short Stories, 1971
- The Habit of Being: Letters, Edited by Sally Fitzgerald, 1979
- The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews, Edited by Carter W. Martin, 1983
- Collected Works (contains Wise Blood, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, The Violent Bear It Away, and Everything That Rises Must Converge), edited by Sally Fitzgerald, 1988