Here’s a recording of Flannery O’Connor reading one of her most famous short stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, at Vanderbilt University in April, 1959—almost exactly fifty-five years ago.
There’s another recording of her reading the same story here.
You can read it for yourself here.
This is the paragraph in the story that delivered its first shock to me on my first reading:
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.
And here’s O’Connor in her essay “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction” observing how we non-Southerners (and non-Americans) often perceive fiction from the American South:
When we look at a good deal of serious modern fiction, and particularly Southern fiction, we find this quality about it that is generally described, in a pejorative sense, as grotesque. Of course, I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic. But for this occasion, we may leave such misapplications aside and consider the kind of fiction that may be called grotesque with good reason, because of a directed intention that way on the part of the author.