The Habit of Art


Photo of author Flannery O'Connor.Author Flannery O’Connor is well-known for her remarkable fiction. Short stories like “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and “Everything Which Rises Must Converge,” are a few examples of O’Connor’s unique and masterful ability to write about absurd and grotesque characters and situations. Her novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away are classic works that center around religion in the South. O’Connor admirers should definitely read her nonfiction collection Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, which contains several essays on writing.

First Love: Art

O’Connor was not always a writer, nor was it her initial aspiration. Early on, O’Connor’s main passion was art. A new book, Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons, edited by Kelly Gerald, with an introduction by Barry Moser , highlights O’Connor’s pre-literary ambition to be a journalist/cartoonist. For years, O’Connor drew cartoons for student publications, and several are reproduced in this collection.

Early Start

At about age five, O’Connor began drawing regularly, often drawing her favorite animals, chickens and peacocks. O’Connor depended on drawing as a means to make connections with others and as a way to satiate her introverted personality.

As a young adult, O’Connor created most of her published prints via the linoleum cut technique. Most pieces featured one panel and contained wry observations about student life. Often her cartoon characters are snoozing during class, heralding vacations from school, cramming for tests, and making fun of WAVES (the Navy’s WWII division “Women Accepted for Emergency Volunteer Service”).

Seeing With the Eye

The book includes an afterword by editor Kelly Gerard titled “The Habit of Art.” Gerard describes the correlation between O’Connor’s visual art and writing. It all hinged on her belief that a successful artist/writer not only observes the world, but can actively process the details through drawing. “She used the expression [‘the habit of art’] to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience.” O’Connor’s visual art background was the foundation of her writing career. This fact was often highlighted by O’Connor during her lectures and talks on writing.

Don't Miss It

Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons was published by Fantagraphics earlier this year, and it is beautifully put together--everything from the presentation of the cartoons to the handsome muted color scheme was thoughtfully considered.  The introduction by Barry Moser, afterword by Gerard, and detailed endnotes demonstrate the scrupulous research that went into editing the book. Another treat: reproduced photographs of O'Connor are included.


Be sure to check out other works by and about O'Connor:

Books by Flannery O’Connor

eBooks by Flannery O’Connor

Film Adaptation

Flannery O’Connor Biography


Author Bio:

Karen Choy is the Youth Services Librarian in Half Moon Bay.

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