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The Violent Bear It Away, by Flannery O'Connor

A Micro-Review/Essay

“If you baptize once, you’ll be doing it the rest of your life. If it’s an idiot this time, the next time it’s liable to be a n***er.”

Flannery violates the trinity of political correctness. She doesn’t use the Unkind R, but her characters refer to them as “dimwits” and “idiots.” Her characters use the Hard R six times, including when Tarwater, trying to resist the urge to baptize his disabled cousin, mutters the above quote to himself. At that point, Flannery just needs to insult gays, which she does at the end when a flamboyant homosexual gets the 14-year-old Tarwater drunk and rapes him, emerging from the scene with a pink tint as if he’d just refreshed himself on blood. It’s all shudder-worthy. On purpose. Suzuki Flannery: Zen master. She’s in the Zen tradition of yelling in our face or maybe whacking us with a bamboo rod, trying to shake us out of modernity, rationality, complacency. Violence, the Hard R, grotesquerie. Any tool will do. She wants to rip your soul out and make you look at it, but first, she needs to break open that crust that covers it up. The dead bodies in her fiction point to existential truths. If you look at the dead bodies, you’re like the dolt who looks at the pointing finger instead of the moon.