Friday, March 8, 2013

Cash Kin

Monday afternoon some visitors stopped by.  I noticed that a young man in the group was wearing a Johnny Cash tee shirt.  I asked if he was a fan of the "man in black."  He responded that not only was he a big fan, but also a blood relative.  While nobody knows if Flannery O'Connor listened to Johnny Cash or had even heard of him, it's not coincidental that fans (and family) of his would be drawn to Andalusia.  I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that there are a lot of parallels in the stories of Flannery O'Connor and the music of Johnny Cash.  Their art can be characterized as gritty and raw.  Because both artists deal with life lived close to the bone, there aren't a lot of "happy" endings to his songs or her stories.  Take for instance, the conclusion of Folsom Prison Blues or any of a number of songs from Cash's great album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.  Furthermore, a dark humor pervades many of these pieces that also resonates through O'Connor's fiction.  As bleak as Cash's music can be, it embraces a vision of life that is ultimately redemptive, as the songs on My Mother's Hymn Book provide ample evidence.  The music in this, Cash's personal favorite of all the albums he recorded, reflects the piety not only of the characters in O'Connor's work, but the people in Milledgeville that she knew.  It is the hymnody of people who wouldn't know a Tantum Ergo from a Gloria Patri, but for all that there is an authenticity and sincerity of devotion in this music that Flannery envied, as it was an element she sometimes found lacking amongst her fellow Catholics.  Finally, and it's just an observation, doesn't this picture of Johnny Cash look like he just stepped out of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"?  I bet you can't guess which character.
- Mark

No comments: