A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

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...the prose is absolutely brilliant, sentence by sentence, simile by simile, and so relentlessly inventive it feels comic.
-NY Times

Synopsis

"I would like to write a beautiful prayer," writes the young Flannery O'Connor in this deeply spiritual journal, recently discovered among her papers in Georgia. "There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise." Written between 1946 and 1947 while O'Connor was a student far from home at the University of Iowa, A Prayer Journal is a rare portal into the interior life of the great writer. Not only does it map O'Connor's singular relationship with the divine, but it shows how entwined her literary desire was with her yearning for God. "I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship; otherwise I will feel my loneliness continually . . . I do not want to be lonely all my life but people only make us lonelier by reminding us of God. Dear God please help me to be an artist, please let it lead to You."

O'Connor could not be more plain about her literary ambition: "Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted," she writes. Yet she struggles with any trace of self-regard: "Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story."
As W. A. Sessions, who knew O'Connor, writes in his introduction, it was no coincidence that she began writing the stories that would become her first novel, Wise Blood, during the years when she wrote these singularly imaginative Christian meditations. Including a facsimile of the entire journal in O'Connor's own hand, A Prayer Journal is the record of a brilliant young woman's coming-of-age, a cry from the heart for love, grace, and art.

 

About Flannery O'Connor

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Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. When she died at the age of thirty-nine, America lost one of its most gifted writers at the height of her powers. W. A. Sessions is the Regents’ Professor of English Emeritus at Georgia State University. He was a personal friend of O’Connor and has become a scholar of her work.
 
Published November 12, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 113 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Prayer Journal
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Sep 11 2013

There’s metaphysical mystery at the heart of this short journal, followed by a facsimile of her handwritten notebook, as well as the seeds of the spiritual life force that coursed through her fiction.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Marilynne Robinson on Nov 15 2013

...the prose is absolutely brilliant, sentence by sentence, simile by simile, and so relentlessly inventive it feels comic.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Tess Taylor on Nov 20 2013

Her voice crafts a world imbued with compassion, which, if not divine, is always fully, richly human, in which we glimpse ourselves fallen, broken and struggling to be made whole.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by WILLIAM BRYANT LOGAN on Dec 13 2013

It is so light that it is could blow away in a high wind, but there is incredible bang for the buck. In it is the seed of all O’Connor’s later work, and by reading it, you see how all her writing – more than 1,000 pages in the Library of America edition – is launched by the prayers begun here.

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