Flannery on enjoying short stories

 

Flannery O’Connor, “On Her Own Work,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (recommended in my Resources section):

In most English classes the short story has become a kind of literary specimen to be dissected. Every time a story of mine appears in a Freshman anthology, I have a vision of it, with its little organs laid open, like a frog in a bottle.
 
I realize that a certain amount of this what-is-the-significance has to go on, but I think something has gone wrong in the process when, for so many students, the story becomes simply a problem to be solved, something which you evaporate to get Instant Enlightenment.

A story really isn’t any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs on and expands in the mind. Properly, you analyze to enjoy, but it’s equally true that to analyze with any discrimination, you have to have enjoyed it already, and I think that the best reason to hear a story read is that it should stimulate that primary enjoyment.

December 16, 2006 by Mindy
Categories: On reading | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. A story really isn’t any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase, unless it hangs on and expands in the mind.

    Very nice. I agree with her assessment of the fate of many a short story. I’ve sadly had a hand in more plot-sectimies, and symbolism-C-sections than I’d care to admit. O’connor’s stories do just what she said she hoped they would.