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Everything That Rises Must Converge
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Flannery O'Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.

Customer Reviews:

  • Lost?
    Of course Jacob was reading this book on Lost. How could he not? It's brilliant.

    The trick, however, is figuring out which story he was reading...I have some theories.

    Pick this up as well as her complete stories. O'Connor writes in an unparalleled manner. Her understanding of the human condition, the absurdity of it all, both tragic and comic, is so well handled. You don't have to be from the south to love her work (I'm not), only interested in what makes people tick. I didn't read O'Connor until college, and now I can't stop. You'll keep coming back to her again and again....more info
  • "Strangers"
    Most of the stories in this wonderful collection turn on a recurrent conflict, the war between parents and their own children. In this, the titular story is representative; a bratty child with what could be called a Northern higher education is pitted against a Southern parent distinguished by finer, older manners, but racism as well.

    O'Connor's treatment of this theme is both hilarious and sad. With wit and delicacy, she exposes "the people gap," that funny but frightening separation even of those persons presumed to share great intimacy. Her vision in this regard coincides with the witty paradox of George Bernard Shaw who famously declared, "There are no greater strangers than parents and their own children."

    ...more info
  • "Floundering around in the thoughts of various unsavory characters."
    For her first collection of stories ("A Good Man Is Hard to Find"), O'Connor gathered an assortment that had been previously published in magazines; the result was a fascinating, but unsystematic, potpourri of experimentation and originality. As she prepared the stories for "Everything That Rise Must Converge," however, she instead developed each selection under a thematic framework. (Only the last two stories, which were literally rushed to completion as she lay on her deathbed, seem to stand a bit apart.) The collection as a whole, even more than her previous fiction, emphasizes the absurdities and monstrosities of everyday life and the tension between the demands of the self and the mystery of the divine presence.

    One of O'Connor's primary mentors for her approach to fiction was, surprisingly, James Joyce (and, specifically, "Dubliners"), and his influence is nowhere more obvious than in this book. In one story ("The Enduring Chill"), she pokes fun at Joyce's worldview in an exchange between an artist and a priest. She was surely alienated by Joyce's un-Catholic sentiments, but she acknowledged his influence in her essay "The Nature and Aim of Fiction": "The major difference between the novel as written in the eighteenth century and the novel as we usually find it today is the disappearance from it of the author. . . . By the time we get to James Joyce, the author is nowhere to be found in the book. The reader is on his own, floundering around in the thoughts of various unsavory characters."

    "Unsavory characters" are, without doubt, O'Connor's specialty. Yet, is O'Connor effectively able to remove herself from her narratives? Do the stories in this collection succeed, as she intended, as a thematically linked sequence? And, aside from her stated literary goals, are these stories really that good?

    Well, on the first two counts, the results are mixed. In spite of her intentions, O'Connor's presence crowds several of these stories. In "The Lame Shall Enter First" (my own favorite), a vague didacticism is obvious both in O'Connor's not-very-subtle manipulation of events and in the story's portrayals of the juvenile delinquent Rufus Johnson and his mentor Sheppard, a Good Samaritan wannabe. Yet O'Connor steps back just enough to allow the story itself to convey the depth of Sheppard's moral collapse. The less successful "Parker's Back" (one of the deathbed stories) concerns a "trailer trash" husband who, much to his wife's dismay, gets a tattoo of Jesus Christ inked on his back. It's one of O'Connor's more brilliant scenarios, but the psychological sermonizing of the omniscient narrator is a bit heavy-handed. The author is everywhere to be found in this story.

    As for the collection's coherence: O'Connor moral vision is certainly more easily discernible in this book than in any of her previous works. But, like the "Lives of the Saints" she so cherished, O'Connor's hagiography of sinners, read back to back, occasionally suffers from a certain formulaic uniformity and predictability. Still, each story, enjoyed at random on its own, has the potential for being your "favorite O'Connor story"-and it's hard to find two readers who will agree on which stories in this collection are best. As a collection, then, it's a bit tame. Individually, however, the stories really are that good.

    Throughout her career, O'Connor invented a gallery of memorable reprobates and unlikely prophets. Whether read separately or as a cycle, these nine stories add much to her unique legacy. And the collection will also help clear the air for readers (like me) who had always been enchanted by O'Connor's works of fiction but perplexed by critics who stress their theological and symbolic underpinnings. ...more info
  • Being an intellectual was a terrible strain on his disposition
    She was a good Christian woman with a large respect for religion, though she did not, of course, believe any of it was true.
    No, this is not my interpretation of FOC, but hers of her heroine Mrs.May in the brillant story 'Greenleaf', one of 9 in this posthumous collection of stories dealing with social change, class issues, family trouble, race, race perception, human imperfection, ...

    FOC has grown on me, as I believe she has grown over her short life. Pity she was killed by disease before this book was published and before she could grow further. I like her 'late' stories far better than her earlier work. Her characters are less freakish, her events less absurd.

    As one might expext from a writer who died young from an illness, her stories are usually leading to death or at least to catastrophic events which might ultimately be lethal. Not all attack the subject as directly as 'Enduring Chill', which has a young man come back home to his mother's farm as a failed writer, dying from some unidentified disease. He rejects all and everything except his self-pity.
    The title story is set mostly in a de-segregated bus and has a confrontation of two oversized women, one white, the other a 'neg..', (a word that seems to have been normal and neutral then, but is not even usable any more now in the amazoo). The whole drama is observed and commented, in 3rd person though, by the white woman's college graduate, unemployed, well meaning, but possibly hypocritical son, who suffers from her unreformed racism and bigotry. A superficial interpretation of the nebulous title: the black woman has risen in social status, now she converges towards the world of the white woman by wearing the same atrocious hat.
    But most of FOC's stories offer themselves to multiple interpretations. They also generally describe quite complex situations: my favorite in this collection, Greenleaf, is about a widow, who runs a farm with a helper, the man called Greenleaf. She has two useless sons in their thirties (one a university teacher, who became an intellectual because he had a fever at age 7; the other an insurance policy salesman, who sells to 'nig....'). What eats her is that her helper Greenleaf has two sons in similar age who have done better in life: they went to war, became sergeants, came back with French wives, have 3 kids each, used government support to study agronomy and to set up modern farms.. This story could have born the collection's title with equal justification.

    Her irony is delightful. She usually hits what I would see as the 'right tone' (as far as one can see 'tones')in social issues. If she really was 'religious' herself, I am not even sure right now. Maybe I will find that out from her letters, which I plan to read later. Religious issues are often present here, but not as dominant as before. What her own beliefs were is absolutely not obvious from her fiction. The catholic background is of course there. But was true for Joyce too.

    She was aware of her world. Her stories are not set in Nomansland, but in the Southern part of the US of the early second half of the 20th century, with civil right struggles, desegregation, social mobility, changes caused by WW2, modernization of agriculture, and all other contemporary problems.
    Go for it! ...more info
  • Comeuppance for the Rising
    Flannery O'Connor holds a distinctive place within the canon of American writers, not only as a woman, but as a southerner, who crafted stories of bitter reality encased within humor and horror. Famously known for the violence depicted in her fiction, O'Connor used violence as a means to shock, and never shied away from any means of accomplishing that. She also never shied away from exposing the hypocrisy that existed within people and their beliefs.

    "Everything That Rises Must Converge" is a collection of nine short stories that were published after O'Connor's death. She had hoped to craft a third novel, but never got further than the first chapter. Included in this collection are some gruesome tales, as well as some that are lighter in tone. All of them are examinations of disintegrating family relationships mixed with some heavy soul searching in a changing world. The title story is an examination of bigotry and stereotypes, as a son takes pleasure in seeing his mother learn that class stations may no longer exist within society. "Greenleaf" and "A View of the Woods" are two stories with particularly unsettling endings that depict the old generation's struggle over what to leave to their undeserving heirs. My particular favorite from this collection is "The Lame Shall Enter First", about a widower who is so conscientious of saving a juvenile delinquent that he neglects his own son with dire consequences.

    The works of Flannery O'Connor are definitely not for the weak at heart. Her stories, while definitely confined to time and place, are timeless examinations of people and their prejudices. She was a master at weaving images into existence and delivering justice, however shocking or strange. "Everything That Rises Must Converge" is just as great an example of O'Connor's genius as her more famous collection "A Good Man is Hard to Find"....more info
  • Devastingly Brilliant
    Flannery O'Connor (1925 - 1964) was a Southern writer and a Catholic writer, the former obvious if you have only read one or two of her stories excerpted in an anthology, the latter apparent as you read a full collection of stories or a novel. EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE is her last collection of short fiction. It is strong and revealing of her considerable talents and themes. The stories included are the title fiction, as well as "Greenleaf," "A View of the Woods," "The Enduring Chill," "The Comforts of Home," "The Lame Shall Enter First," "Revelation," "Parker's Back" and "Judgement (sic) Day."

    The title story sets the beat for those that follow. In the mid 20th century, O'Connor finds a south that is still coming to terms with the Civil War and on top of that must deal with the new social imperatives brought on by the civil rights movement. The characters in conflict are often parents and children, one usually trying to preserve the once known world, the other trying to accommodate the new social order and progress, neither ever getting it right. In fact, they often get it so wrong as to the point of tragic loss. Her stories swoop with human comedy and high tragedy in pursuit of a moral vision. There is often incredible violence.

    First and foremost about her stories is that they are so very readable. Characters are deftly sketched, her narrative voice is straightforward. Her plots are sturdily built. And if the stories are variations on similar characters, themes, conflicts and consequences, each is remarkably distinct, its own entity. The critical introduction to this edition is by a longtime friend of O'Connor's, Robert Fitzgerald, who provides biographical context.

    ...more info
  • Everything that rises must fall
    Flannery O'Connor's novel is a blending together of nine short stories, all independent of one another working together to achieve a common goal. In my opinion, if I have read 155 books in my life, this book does not make the top 150. No single story was very appealing, making it nine slow starts and nine mediocre finishes. To give a more objective view of the book, it was written in a third person omniscient point of view. O'Connor takes a somewhat cynical approach toward each of her characters. In their descriptions, the flaws of each character are pointed out rather than the virtues. These are some of the more obvious styles that O'Connor uses. In the stories, various devices are used. Among these are flashback, imagery, and hyperbole. Each of these individually contributes to the overall story. Without these devices, the point O'Connor was trying to make would not be as solid. The overall theme in the book seen throughout the stories is a need for personal change. Each protagonist goes through a series of events and detailed descriptions of what is wrong with everyone else, only to point the finger at themselves at the end. The moral of this is that rather than trying to pin our problems on others, maybe we should take responsibilities for our own flaws. If from what I have said you still wish to read the book, by all means, go ahead. Many people have liked this book, but I am quite convinced, it is not my style....more info