Friday, May 17, 2013

Carrying the Torch

From time to time in this blog I have cited some modern writers who I believe carry on Flannery O'Connor's legacy. Among those who have been influenced by her and could be considered her literary heirs are Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, and Cormac McCarthy.  This week Craig said that he saw an article online that makes the case for Marilynne Robinson.  That caught my attention because I am presently reading her first novel, Housekeeping.  Do a Google search sometime with Flannery O'Connor and Marilynne Robinson and you will find a slew of articles comparing and contrasting the two authors.  Unlike some of the writers mentioned above, however,  Marilynne Robinson acknowledges no indebtedness to O'Connor.  In fact, she has been critical of O'Connor for Flannery's less than serious approach to her subject matter.  Robinson claims "the influence of Flannery O'Connor has been particularly destructive" by leading readers not to expect "serious fiction to treat religious thought respectfully." (Robinson, "A World of Beautiful Souls")  While their style and approach may differ, Robinson's and O'Connor's thematic concerns are similar enough to invite comparison.  So what do you all think?  Does Marilynne Robinson follow in Flannery's footsteps?  Does she carry the O'Connor torch in the 21st century?  However one answers those questions, I do think Robinson's work, meager as it is in terms of quantity (3 novels in 33 years), will, like Flannery's, stand the test of time.
- Mark

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