The Complete Stories (FSG Classics)

by Flannery O'Connor

Paperback, 1971



Call number




Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1971), Edition: First, 576 pages


Fiction. Short Stories. HTML: Winner of the National Book Award The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O'Connor put together in her short lifetime�Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O'Connor published her first story, "The Geranium," in 1946, while she was working on her master's degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, "Judgement Day"�sent to her publisher shortly before her death�is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of "The Geranium." Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O'Connor's longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member StephenBarkley

I was racking my brain to come up with the perfect superlative to describe O'Connor's short stories and nothing fits better. All of the recurring themes—racism, murder, loss, pain, religious fanaticism—are written with an edge that can make you physically wince while reading.

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collection is no chore to read, though. Once you acclimatize yourself to her slowed down style of plot development, the thoughts and dialogue of the characters command your attention.

Speaking of characters, O'Connor's are larger-than-life yet completely believable. Read one of these stories on a park bench somewhere and you will see the characters stumble past you.

Flawed humanity has never looked so beautiful.
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LibraryThing member dressrehearsal
I am not given to rereading books, but after decades of book collecting, I go back to Flannery O'Connor's extraordinary stories again and again. If my house was on fire, I'd get the kids out, grab my dog-eared first edition, (God willing, in that order) and run.
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Not a single hero. Flannery O'Connor's entire collected works has not one heroic character. Though her career was short, she still published 31 stories spanning 550 pages. As great as she is, it's also telling that not once did she create an admirable character to prevail or transcend the downcast
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outlook that is pervasive throughout her tales. I was depressed by the time I finished this book.

Her general them could be described as dark religious irony. Most of her stories are about the impoverished South. She writes about religion and race, and the sub-classes of people and their perspectives on these topics. The introduction explains how Thomas Merton admired Flannery's writing. It's easy to see the raw spiritual truth that he probably found as well. Perhaps the late 50's needed a literary prophet to point out the racial disparity and religious hypocrisy of that time. Reading it fifty years later, it needs that historical context in order to seem more than the type of ranting cynical college students make during late-night philosophical discussions. Would she get the same accolades today, given that we're less easily shocked and plenty of young writers combine grittiness with rejection of traditional religion?

I preferred some of her earlier stories, such as "The Crop" and "The Turkey" over her more highly acclaimed "Good Country People" and "A Good Man is Hard to Find." In "The Crop," she exemplifies directly the differences between bad and good writing. She also conveys how good content comes from within the writer. "The Turkey" is simple, but it works by building suspense and giving us a very understandable character. "Good Country People" has a good twist but the cynicism itself is too direct. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is downright morbid.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
I had heard so much about Flannery O'Connor I thought I'd check her out. Lordamercy! If you're ever having a wonderful time: enjoying a cool breeze on a warm day, the dogs are running, the birds are singing, your children have made you feel like a good mother - she'll slap those feelings of joy and
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hope right out of you. I think this line from A Good Man is Hard to Find pretty much defines her view of people: "She would have been a good woman," the Misfit said "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

I read 5 of her stories:
The Enduring Chill
Everything That Rises Must Converge
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Judgment Day
A View of the Woods

and I think that'll be enough, unless my life begins to go off on such a wild spree of happiness that I need to bring myself down a peg or two.
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LibraryThing member nicholasjjordan
I read most of these one per sitting, each night before bed. It was the perfect pace, although sometimes a disturbing set of last thoughts before bed. I’ll definitely return to some of them. Others are really difficult to read, particular in the characters’ views on race.
LibraryThing member desultory
Brilliant writer, mesmerising, but with a viewpoint that is utterly repugnant. She seems to exult in the damnation of her doomed characters. Very funny at times, but I can't regard it as comedy. (Divine or otherwise.)
LibraryThing member homeschoolmimzi
If I could give this book 10 stars I would. I read each and every story in this collection, and I'll read them again.

Flannery O'Connor's short stories are morbid, dark, surprising, edgy and marvelous and uplifting at the same time. Many discriminating readers, including some of my family members
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;-) find her stories too troubling and depressing. But the disturbing aspects are what draw me somehow. O'Connor reveals human depravity and redemption in her characters, unlike any other writer. The redemption you need to look for carefully. But the depravity is evident. And it is truth. And that resounds deeply with me.

Some people object to her use of old southern vernacular ("nigger" pickaninny"). Similar objections were raised when Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published. If you are a sensitive politically correct type, then definitely avoid her stories. But you will be sadly missing out on some wonderful writing.

Some of my favorites in this collection were: The Geranium, A Late Encounter with the Enemy, The River, The Displaced Person, The Artificial Nigger, Good Country People, Greenleaf, A View of the Woods, The Enduring Chill, The Comforts of Home and The Lame Shall Enter First, with the last two being the favorites among the favorites. There were several stories in this book which were later incorporated into her novel Wise Blood. Those were not as compelling. O'Connor's best form was by far the short story.

It was a joy to read these stories, as it was for pure enjoyment this time around. I am thankful to my college profs who introduced me to her writing many years ago.
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LibraryThing member ncnsstnt
If I could study every nuance of the stories in this book and the entirety of Carver's stories I would probably know everything I would want to know about the art of short story writing.
LibraryThing member stephxsu
After reading The Complete Stories, I am now thoroughly convinced that Flannery O'Connor is indeed one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I loved every single story I read mostly for the hypocrisy, ridiculousness, and self-delusion of the characters. It gives me a sort of guilty
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pleasure to hear the characters say something that we know is completely untrue.

O'Connor uses the impressive technique of what I like to call "distant narration": the narrator holds the characters at a distance through syntax, resulting in a schism between what the character knows and what the reader knows, and the reader ends up knowing more about the characters and their situations than the characters do themselves. It's because of this technique that I believe we are able to so easily read about such blatant situations of racial and class prejudice: we know the characters are insipid and thus don't take them and their backwards beliefs too seriously.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
I usually find short stories unsatisfying, 'stunted novels' that are over before the characters can develop, but Flannery O' Connor's writing has opened my eyes to how the right words used effectively are far more powerful than a novel's worth of page-filling dialogue and description. She really
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mastered the art of capturing a character perfectly in a paragraph or two, so that the reader is aware of their backstory and can view the story from their perspective, though not always in sympathy with their thoughts and actions. Whether old or young, male or female, parent or child, O'Connor projects human fantasies and fears via the introspection of her characters, who go through the ugly, petty and cynical emotions and moods that we can all relate to but few will admit to. The gothic dramas played out in some of the stories, particularly those that form part of her novel 'Wise Blood', may be far from common experience, but the characters and their feelings are very real - the isolation of the old man in 'The Geranium'/'Judgement Day', the frustration of Mrs Cope in 'A Circle in the Fire' and self-destructive jealousy of the son in 'The Comforts of Home'.

Flannery O'Connor's thirty-one short stories, written over twenty years until her death in 1964, tackle larger themes such as religion and segregation through the personal dilemmas of single characters. Her approach is direct and unflinching, but without being obvious - I was rather worried about the religious undertone of her writing, but she wasn't trying to correct or instruct, only illustrate. The 'n' word crops up so often that her stories have no doubt been nominated for the banned books list in the US, but the use of racial slurs by that isolated breed of poor ignorant southerners left behind by the twentieth century only insults the narrator, not the reader. I view novels and stories like this not as a continuation or commendation of the past, but as a warning to contemporary readers; nor do I believe that Flannery O'Connor, a native of Georgia, was criticising or stereotyping all southerners as old-fashioned, proud and narrow-minded, but she was probably writing from experience. 'The Geranium', 'The Artificial Nigger', and 'Everything That Rises Must Coverge' deal with racial segregation and tensions, but 'Greenleaf' and 'Revelation' are also about social prejudice, and 'The Displaced Person' refers to the Holocaust in Europe.

There is so much hidden depth in this collection, and every story really made me think. My favourites, if it is possibly to choose, are the more 'ordinary' tales - 'A Stroke of Good Fortune', 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' (for the shocking yet oddly satisfying ending), General Sash in 'A Late Encounter with the Enemy', the little boy 'Bevvvuuuul' in 'The River', the horrible children in 'The View of the Woods' and 'The Lame Shall Enter First', and 'The Crop', as a study of the writer at work. Flannery O'Connor also has a talent for similes that I admire - eyes like silver fish caught in a net of red threads, and 'he seemed mute and patient, like an old sheep waiting to be let out'.

Wonderful - a lesson in writing, and a joy to read.
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LibraryThing member hilaritas
"She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life." Great stuff.
LibraryThing member kylepotter
Creepy. Weird. Prophetic. Shocking. Confusing. Beautiful. Catholic. Southern.

What else can I say about this wonderful woman?
LibraryThing member kishields
Fantastic to dip into over and over. Just read "Judgement Day' for the first time. Utterly fantastic. She is one of a kind and one of the true greats of the Southern Gothic mentality.
LibraryThing member wvdave
Presented in chronological order that helps the reader track O'Connor's progress as a writer.
LibraryThing member sarah_rubyred
Often hilarious observations on life as she must have seen it, probably more incredible now, but unfortunately just as relevant.

Actually, I would probably invite this lady to my ultimate dinner party.
LibraryThing member dougwood57
Flannery O'Connor is one of great American writers of the 20th century, a Southern Gothic stylist of the first order. She won the National Book Award for this posthumous 1972 collection, 'The Complete Stories'.

O'Connor sets her stories in the rural South and populates them with flawed, grotesque,
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and twisted characters - this is not the imagined noble, glorious, and chivalric South, but rather the real South of the poor and middling whites of the 1950's(race is mostly in the background). She catches the nuances of human behavior. Her stories have powerful, unexpected and disturbing endings.

Pick up a story and read just one paragraph and you will be hooked.

"Asbury's train stopped so that he would get off exactly where his mother was standing waiting to meet him. Her thin spectacled face below him was bright with a wide smile that disappeared as she caught sight of him bracing himself behind the conductor. The smile vanished so suddenly, the shocked look that replaced it was so complete, that he realized for the first time that he must look as ill as he was..."

Absolutely the highest recommendation.
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LibraryThing member kimoqt
Great short story writing. Very raw and honest. Mostly about southern experiences and blacks and prejudice.
LibraryThing member isdili
I was introduced to this by a friend who loves this author and although I accept of course that she was a very reputed writer, I am finding a little difficult to enjoy or even understand some of her stories.
LibraryThing member PastorBob
Bend over backwards to read the stories in this book. Great writing, and more still: insight, discernment, truth, and power. I had to set the book down after some of the stories to settle after their good force: when a man storms out of a barbershop after blurting out his feelings; as a family lies
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murdered following a country drive. O'Connor's work is the kind of story-telling that gives you a real taste for great writing, and leaves you dissatisfied with anything less.
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LibraryThing member ostrom
"Everything That Rises Must Converge" is one of my most favorite short stories.
LibraryThing member bibliofile55
Flannery O'Connor is a genious of the short story. Read her and you will know her dark, demented, brilliant truth of the south.
LibraryThing member NicholasPayne
Grotesque, keenly observed, with sparing splashes of tenderness, O'Connor's stories are a wonder to behold.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
I've written and thrown out three drafts on why Flannery O'Connor is Great. I won't bother with it again, not for a while.

She covers the Grotesque and Sin of Southern life, for some thirty-odd stories. Sin and Grace in a palatable and altering way. Excellent characterization, using the smallest of
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details and conversations to broaden personality.

Like all good short story collections, not to be consumed in one sitting.
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LibraryThing member mrgan
The only thing left for me to say about this classic of American literature is that I do not recommend powering through the whole book at once. The stories are so heavy, you might want to give yourself some time between them.
LibraryThing member JDRuskin1184
My two favorite stories are "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "A View of the Woods." So twisted and so very good.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

576 p.; 8.2 inches


0374515360 / 9780374515362
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