Genre

Nonfiction

Audience

Highschool & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2013

Themes

Prayer, Sainthood, Humility, art, artist, ambition, grace

 

Reviewed by

A.R.K. Watson

Compiled from a hand-written fragmented notebook found among her possessions, O’Connor never intended this journal as anything more than a personal reflection or prayer diary for her own spiritual exercise. Incredibly short, horrid grammar, stream of consciousness sentence fragments – and yet this should be required reading for any Christian artist, entrepreneur or possessor of deep-seated ambition. All of the writing flaws make this book fascinating and encouraging, and despite them the text is clear and understandable. For artists and anyone with a secret ambition, it is encouraging to see how unsure of her own talent Flannery O’Connor was.

Subscribe to Our FREE Email & Get Weekly Catholic Books for as little as $1

At the time she was studying at The Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She had just turned twenty-one and had her first story, The Geranium, accepted for publication. She wrote this journal sporadically for about a year and half starting in 1946. Through these entries we gain an intimate window in the mind of one of America’s great writers at a time when is young and unproven even – no – especially to herself.

Structurally, the book follows the four parts of a prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Reading along becomes itself an act of prayer, with O’Connor leading us through a meditation on each of these stages, with focus on a vocation in the arts. However, the way O’Connor writes about her writing vocation is general enough that anyone with a dearly held personal ambition will find these prayers relatable.

She models how to marry personal craft and ambition with humility, submission to God and a personal path to sainthood. Though the book is not a picture of grammatical perfection by any means, it is very clear and easy to understand. Reading it felt like I was sitting on O’Connor’s front porch while she shared her worries with me as though I were a good friend. Much like her novels, there is a self-deprecating humor that runs throughout. The last entry even ends with her calling herself out for being a glutton for eating Scotch Oatmeal cookies that day, though she never specifies the number. In one entry, she’ll write a soul-shattering prayer, and the next day her entry will be about how embarrassed she is that she ever wrote something so pretentious.

Pretentious or not, it is all beautiful and encouraging. The following excerpt I found so moving that I wrote it down and hung it up above my writing desk. I cannot think of a better way of summarizing my review than to end with her words.

Subscribe to Our FREE Email & Get Weekly Catholic Books for as little as $1

4/14/1947

“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- like this today. The word craftsmanship takes care of the work angle and the word aesthetic, the truth angle…It will be a life of struggle with no consummation. When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle. All our lives are consumed in possessing struggle but only when the struggle is cherished and directed to a final consummation outside of this life is it of any value. I want to be the best artist it is possible for me to be, under God… Dear God please help me to be an artist, please let it lead to you.”


Join Here for FREE to Never Miss a Deal

Find new favorites & Support Catholic Authors

The Mission of Joan Of Arc by Philip Kosloski, Alexandre Nascimento, and Jesse Hansen

Voyage Comics’ dynamic interpretation of the Life of Joan of Arc is based on the play written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Zeal & Zest: Where to Begin with Hillaire Belloc

Belloc was known as a Catholic polemicist with a vicious talent for skewering his opponents. Anyone struggling to persevere as a Christian in the fields of journalism or media should read him. His children’s books have an acerbic humor that will appeal to bored veterans of political correctness, especially teens.

Ascend to Your Father by John Hammes ph.d

This book brings us to a unity with the Triune God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to redeem the world and sanctify us through the Holy Spirit.

In the Footsteps of St. Therese: How to Be Single but Not Alone by Teresita Ogg

A Filipino woman recounts her lifelong journey in a single vocation, with Saint Therese guiding the way.

Me, Ruby & God; A Journal of Spiritual Growth by Linda Crowley

A beautiful memoir about the love of God and the love of a good dog.

Outlaws of Ravenhurst, by Sr. M. Imelda Wallace, S.L.

The 10-year-old heir of a noble Scottish family must choose between his inheritance and his Catholic faith.

The Singer not the Song by Audrey Erskine Lindop (AKA The Bandit and the Priest)

A priest and a bandit king face off for the fate of a small Mexican town in this thrilling western adventure.

The Saving Power of Suffering By Father Jacob Powell

A Catholic guide to taking up our cross and following Jesus.

Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

Does Pope Francis think the world is about to end?

Books to Pray With, March: For the New Martyrs

Every month in 2024 Pope Francis has a monthly prayer intention. Every month we will release a book list that will draw your heart and soul deeper into prayer on these topics.

Legion by William Peter Blatty

When a boy is crucified, Detective Kinderman finds himself chasing down a murderer who is already dead.

Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary by Meggie K. Daly 

A scriptural meditation and a moving witness of how the rosary brought the author back to The Church.

Freedom & Responsibility in “Citizen of the Galaxy” by Robert Heinlein

One of the masters of science fiction delivers a story exploring the limits of freedom and the ongoing battle against fallen human nature.

When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer? by Bill Schmitt

The Pope’s Words of Hope for Journalism

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

I knew this book was going to be scary. What I did NOT expect was to be left with a deep feeling of peace and comfort.

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete

Poetry that will take you deeper into Scripture and help you see the extraordinary in the simple.

Abolishing Abortion by Fr. Frank Pavone

An invaluable handbook for pro-life religious non-profits that want to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—without risking their tax-exempt status.

Transgender Ideology & Gender Dysphoria: A Catholic response by Dr. Jake Thibault

A pastoral, academic overview of one of today’s most controversial issues: transgenderism.

Leaf by Niggle…by J.R.R. Tolkien

Leaf by Niggle isn’t nearly as well-known as LOTR and The Hobbit, but it is as beautiful and moving in its own way.

On Heaven’s Doorstep by Andrea Jo Rodgers

When you’re on the front lines of life and death, it’s hard to avoid seeing real miracles.