This letter is long overdue, but I write today on the happy occasion of your 84th birthday. I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing my sadness that you couldn’t be here to celebrate with the rest of us down here (seeing as you died in 1964 at the ripe old age of 39).
When I heard that it was your birthday today, it was just the stimulus I needed to finally read your work. Many friends, mentors, and colleagues badgered me about why I hadn’t yet read your macabre stories. And I never had a very good answer for them.
Now, I understand what I was missing.
My textbook for next semester has an entire chapter devoted to your work (preview for my Survey of Lit. Students, we’ll be studying O’Connor). So, I had a great selection of stories for an introduction.
I admire the way you depict flawed characters who discover God’s grace, not because they’ve earned it or deserve it, but because God wills it. They’re dirty, racist, rotten, sinful characters, a lot like the people we all know, a lot like the people we are. But God reaches out to them, in the midst of their depravity, and extends his incomprehensible grace with often incomprehensibly horrific methods.
Your critics call you gruesome. In your most famous story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” God offers grace through the gun of a notorious murderer and his gang. But the gore has a purpose, a noble one. It highlights God’s redemptive power. It’s what Joseph recognized in Egypt: what others intend for evil, God intends for good (Genesis 50:20).
I’m looking forward to reading more of your work, and I’m sorry it took me so long to write. These days, I’ve discovered that a good author is hard to find, especially one who loves, and rightly fears, God.
Your Sister in Christ,
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