Henry T. Edmondson's Flannery O'Connor is, at heart, a philosopher who uses fiction to confront and provoke her readers to serious thought about the difficult questions of modernity. To illustrate his point, he begins the book with a quote by Mikhail Lermontov from A Hero of Our Time
: ''People have been fed enough sweetmeats; it has given them indigestion: they need some bitter medicine, some caustic truths.'' Edmondson claims that many readers find O'Connor's work difficult because they have an inadequate understanding of nihilism -- that pervasive spirit of the modern age against which O'Connor picked up her pen time and again to do battle. Edmondson balances his diagnosis of this mis-appreciation by also concerning himself with a thorough examination of O'Connor's Catholicism -- in particular, her Thomistic leanings. Using her stories and novels as lodestones, Edmondson discusses the plight of modern man and his difficult return to God, the seduction of nihilism, the difficulties of social change, the nature of evil and the part suffering plays in redemption. With uncommon access to O'Connor's personal library and papers, Edmondson follows the progression of her burgeoning philosophy from the death of her father through her last years, and his book carries in it a subtle sense of authority concerning O'Connor's work. Like him, we find that her stories penetrate reality and (quoting O'Connor) ''find in each thing the spirit which makes it itself and holds the world together.'''
An Eighth Day View:
While Flannery O'Connor is hailed as one of the most important writers of the twentieth-century American south, few appreciate O'Connor as a philosopher as well. In Return to Good and Evil, Henry T. Edmondson introduces us to a remarkable thinker who uses fiction to confront and provoke us with the most troubling moral questions of modern existence. 'Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul, ' O'Connor once said, in response to the nihilistic tendencies she saw in the world around her. Nihilism Nietzche's idea that 'God is dead' preoccupied O'Connor, and she used her fiction to draw a tableau of human civilization on the brink of a catastrophic moral, philosophical, and religious crisis. Again and again, O'Connor suggests that the only way back from this precipice is to recognize the human need for grace, redemption, and God. She argues brilliantly and persuasively through her novels and short stories that the Nietzschean challenge to the notions of good and evil is an ill-conceived effort that will result only in disaster. With rare access to O'Connor's correspondence, prose drafts, and other personal writings, Edmondson investigates O'Connor's deepest motivations through more than just her fiction and illuminates the philosophical and theological influences on her life and work. Edmondson argues that O'Connor's artistic brilliance and philosophical genius reveal the only possible response to the nihilistic despair of the modern world: a return to good and evil through humility and grace.