Flannery O'Connor's fiction is a reminder that the rural South is as good a place as any for transcendence to break through and reveal itself to the human gaze.
The story of Flannery O'Connor's life is the story of her inner life more than her outer life. In a letter to a friend she wrote, "My audience are the people who think God is dead. At least these are the people I am conscious of writing for." And writing for such a people required that she find a whole new language, a language she had to make up as she went along, drawing startling and large figures to get the attention of the almost blind, shouting in the ear of the almost deaf.
Her famous short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" was once called "profane, blasphemous, and outrageous," but for O'Connor, the real horror was never violence or deformity, but damnation. Horror that awakens a soul to its own danger and prepares it to receive grace is no horror, but a mercy. "The devil," she wrote, "accomplishes a good deal of groundwork that seems to be necessary before grace is effective."
In "The Terrible Speed of Mercy" Jonathan Rogers chronicles how a conventional, devout middle-class lady from a dairy farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, came to write stories that were like literary thunderstorms, turning on sudden violence and flashes of revelation that crashed down from the heavens, destroying even as they illuminated.