Friday, March 11, 2016

Reading and Performing Flannery

In her essay “Writing Short Stories”, Flannery O’Connor tells us that “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is....When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story.

I am writing this from my home in Los Angeles, having just returned from Georgia after retyping Flannery's two wonderful novels back-to-back over a 17 day period. I started with Wise Blood at Andalusia, then moved to Savannah, to SCAD and the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home, where I retyped The Violent Bear It Away. Getting to perform these devotional re-readings and re-typings in her stomping grounds added a great deal of texture to the experience. As Flannery herself reminds us, the most meaningful experience is in the reading all the words themselves, and my time with these novels has affirmed in me the rightness of her advice. But during those in-between times, when I found myself sitting, for example, on Flannery’s front porch, looking out across to her pond, the smaller gaps in my understanding filled in, and I was drawn that much closer to her. It is an experience available to anyone with a volume of her stories and enough gas in the car to get to Georgia. If you are a true pilgrim, perhaps you will make your drive in an Essex with a rope holding the door on.

-- Tim Youd is a Los Angeles-based artist who has undertaken the project of retyping 100 classic novels. He stages each performance in a place charged with literary significance specific to each novel. He recently retyped “Wise Blood” at Andalusia before moving on to a residency at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where he retyped “The Violent Bear it Away” at SCAD and Flannery’s Childhood Home.

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