"I would like to write a beautiful prayer," writes the young Flannery O'Connor in this deeply spiritual journal, recently discovered among her papers in Georgia. "There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise." Written between 1946 and 1947 while O'Connor was a student far from home at the University of Iowa, A Prayer Journal is a rare portal into the interior life of the great writer.Read more...
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"I would like to write a beautiful prayer," writes the young Flannery O'Connor in this deeply spiritual journal, recently discovered among her papers in Georgia. "There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise." Written between 1946 and 1947 while O'Connor was a student far from home at the University of Iowa, A Prayer Journal is a rare portal into the interior life of the great writer. Not only does it map O'Connor's singular relationship with the divine, but it shows how entwined her literary desire was with her yearning for God. "I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship; otherwise I will feel my loneliness continually . . . I do not want to be lonely all my life but people only make us lonelier by reminding us of God. Dear God please help me to be an artist, please let it lead to You."
O'Connor could not be more plain about her literary ambition: "Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted," she writes. Yet she struggles with any trace of self-regard: "Don't let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story."
As W. A. Sessions, who knew O'Connor, writes in his introduction, it was no coincidence that she began writing the stories that would become her first novel, Wise Blood, during the years when she wrote these singularly imaginative Christian meditations. Including a facsimile of the entire journal in O'Connor's own hand, A Prayer Journal is the record of a brilliant young woman's coming-of-age, a cry from the heart for love, grace, and art.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-10-07
- Reviewer: Staff
At age 20, Catholic writer O'Connor moved from Georgia to Iowa City to enroll in graduate school. While in Iowa, she created what editor Sessions, an emeritus English professor at Georgia State University, terms a "prayer journal"—heartfelt odes to God, scribbled in a black-and-white composition notebook. At the outset of the journal, O'Connor makes clear that she has not abandoned the "traditional prayers" of the church; she simply wants to supplement them with prayers she feels more deeply. Throughout, O'Connor bemoans her inability to love God as she feels she should. She also prays about writing, asking that a Christian sensibility would pervade her writing, and asking that God would help her remember that she is not the ultimate author of her work, but an "instrument" for the words God gives her. In his illuminating introduction, Sessions suggests that although the prayers appear "spontaneous," they were in fact astutely crafted and reveal a masterful writer at work. Both O'Connor devotees and students of the life of Christian prayer will find this slender volume, which contains a facsimile reproduction of the journal, only recently discovered, a wonderful addition to their library. (Nov.)