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Old 05-15-2008   #11
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Few writers of fiction have managed to evoke such damned bleakness as Flannery O'Connor. An anecdote, to begin with: After reading one of her stories ("A Good Man is Hard to Find," I think) which had been published in a popular magazine, a shocked reader wrote the author an indignant letter, claiming that, "Yes, I admit the story was powerful, but it left a bad taste in my mouth." Ms. O'Connor dryly wrote back: "You weren't supposed to eat it." If it's possible to be posthumously in love with a female writer, I love Flannery.

This "passage" (ever since I began this threat (typo, I meant thread) the word "passage" has acquired rather strange and sinsitter (typo, sinister) and amusing connotations... never mind), this passage comes from her short story "Good Country People." The woman in the story has a Ph.D in nihilistic philosophy, and a wooden leg; and the man is a young bible salesman. The action takes place in the loft of a barn. Enjoy:

Her voice when she spoke had an almost pleading sound. "Aren't you," she murmured, "aren't you good country people?"

The boy cocked his head. He looked as if he were just beginning to understand that she might be trying to insult him. "Yeah," he said, curling his lip slightly, "but it ain't held me back none. I'm as good as you any day of the week."

"Give me my leg," she said.

He pushed it farther away with his foot. "Come on now, let's begin to have us a good time," he said coaxingly. "We ain't got to know one another good yet."

"Give me my leg!" she screamed and tried to lunge for it but he pushed her down easily.

"What's the matter with you all of a sudden?" he asked, frowning as he screwed the top on the flask and put it quickly back inside the Bible. "You just a while ago said you didn't believe in nothing. I thought you was some girl!"

Her face was almost purple. "You're a Christian!" she hissed. "You're fine Christian! You're just like them all--say one thing and do another. You're a perfect Christian, you're..."

The boy's mouth was set angrily. "I hope you don't think," he said in a lofty indignant tone, "that I believe in that crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn't born yesterday and I know where I'm going!"

"Give me my leg!" she screeched. He jumped so quickly that she barely saw him sweep the cards and the blue box back into the Bible and throw the Bible into the valise. She saw him grab the leg and then she saw it for an instant slanted forlornly across the inside of the suitcase with a Bible at either side of its opposite ends. He slammed the lid shut and snatched up the valise and swung it down the hole and then stepped through himself.

When all of him had passed but his head, he turned and regarded her with a look that no longer had any admiration in it. "I've gotten a lot of interesting things," he said. "One time I got a woman's glass eye this way. And you needn't to think you'll catch me because Pointer ain't really my name. I use a different name at every house I call at and don't stay nowhere long. And I'll tell you another thing, Hulga," he said, using the name as if he didn't think much of it, "you ain't so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!" and then the toast-colored hat disappeared down the hole and the girl was left, sitting on the straw in the dusty sunlight. When she turned her churning face toward the opening, she saw his blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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