Tuesday, 23 December 2014

In Vejer de la Frontera, Andalucía, on a misty afternoon I read a story and fell asleep, read another and fell asleep again. My second read of Flannery O'Connor; and the first time I have slept in the afternoon, twice, ever. Two days later, via the Refugio de Juanar, a walk and two miradors, in warm sunshine on the beach at Marbella, I read another story and then fell asleep. I'd been to rural Georgia of about fifty years ago, and now I was tired and happy to have spent this time away from myself.

Flannery O'Connor didn't move about – from Georgia to Iowa and back to Georgia – she didn't live long, or marry, or go on holiday, she lived with her mother with peacocks, ducks and hens and wrote astounding stories of people she must have known and absorbed with the air she breathed. To be this muscular with her creatures she must have stared at them and inhabited them long after they'd gone.

An old General attends his granddaughter's graduation ceremony; he sits behind her in his wheelchair, as Dignity Honour and Courage among all these upstarts. She wanted him to be there. My kin, she wanted to scream, See him. It has taken her twenty years to graduate. As he is honoured, as his granddaughter is honoured, a hole begins in his head. The black music brings in the hole and then he's running backwards into words and stabs of pain he meets with curses and then death. 
A quick paraphrase of A Late Encounter With The Enemy

By the time we got to Málaga I couldn't read any more; I was gazing. From a hotel balcony on a hill, I absorbed another human drama behind the second, the fourteenth or the nine hundredth window from the left; I hovered with sixty-four thermal gulls as firecrackers belted out of the avenida beside the ferry to Africa. Then there was the sunset and after. The great distances of unfamiliar places.

Flannery O'Connor didn't gaze. She entered confusion and prejudice with the confidence of a long-distance swimmer.

She saw the Polish words, dirty and all-knowing and unreformed, flinging mud on the clean English words until everything was equally dirty. She saw them all piled up in a room, all the dead dirty words, theirs and hers too, piled up like the naked bodies in the newsreel. God save me, she cried silently, from the stinking power of Satan!
The Displaced Person

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