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Chastened

Lorna Tracy, 3 September 1981

The Habit of Being: Letters by Flannery O’Connor 
edited by Sally Fitzgerald.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 639 pp., £8.25, January 1979, 0 571 12017 2
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The violent bear it away 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Faber, 226 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 571 12017 2
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A good man is hard to find 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Women’s Press, 251 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7043 2832 1
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... As many letters in The Habit of Being show, Flannery O’Connor was plagued long before her death with Deep Readers from little colleges offering outlandish ‘interpitations’ of her fiction and to some extent her life. If the tendency of British academics has been to demand that short stories must be ‘short Tories’, successful or not according to how strictly they are plotted to deliver a short sharp shock – an early, violent and nastily surprising end – the corresponding vice among their American counterparts has been to require that every short story be a fruitcake of Freudian symbols ...

Marriage

Lorna Tracy, 17 June 1982

... James Scavanger had first met the woman who would become his wife on a Thursday afternoon at the Tomb of the Unknown Celebrity, where she did the floors. As she had approached him through the crowds, pushing her wide mop, he had whispered a batrachian whisper she couldn’t fail to hear. Hoarse with abstract rapture he had whispered: ‘I have a serpent of delight!’ It was a rare lyric moment for James, who was a pure scientist ...

Absurdities

Angela Carter, 2 July 1981

Original Sins 
by Lisa Alther.
Women’s Press, 608 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7043 2839 9
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Amateur Passions 
by Lorna Tracy.
Virago, 192 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 86068 197 1
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... the world, it is possible to maintain a very high degree of quality control over short runs, and Lorna Tracy’s quality control is so stringent that there is not one flabby sentence or second-hand image in the whole book. The same cannot be said for Alther, who is often reduced to stylistic tics such as ‘“I don’t hate men,” said Emily with ...

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