People of the Book
A Blog about Book Publishing from a Catholic Perspective

O’Connor Lives

July 16th, 2005

Amy Welborn at Open Book points us toward a very insightful appreciation of The Habit of Being, the great collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters. The essay she found, by Jonathan Yardley, is appropriately titled “The Writer Who Was Full of Grace.” Yardley says that The Habit of Being is “a great American book by one of the greatest American writers.” Amy, who knows O’Connor’s work well, also supplies links to resources that will be especially helpful to people who are just getting started reading O’Connor. It’s well worth the effort.

One of Amy’s readers found this blog, which seems to consist entirely of quotes from O’Connor. One of them is this famous story about O’Connor’s defense of the eucharist at a New York dinner party:

I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, “A Charmed Life.”) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn’t opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. . . . Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.

That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.


  1. The Anchoress wrote,

    One of my favorites!

    Comment on July 19, 2005 @ 12:44 am

  2. The Anchoress » Flannery O wrote,

    […] 2005

    Flannery O
    Filed under: Uncategorized, Bookchat

    Jim Manney of People of the Book directs us to this excellent and fun page If Flannery Had Blog. He found it via an Amy Welbor […]

    Pingback on July 19, 2005 @ 12:47 am

  3. Korrektiv wrote,

    I’ve heard this quote many times but had never read the full passage. That she admits to having said it in a “shaky voice” makes me feel better about my own occasional shaky-voiced defenses of the faith.

    Comment on July 28, 2005 @ 10:39 pm

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