Flannery O’Connor Renders Her Verdict on Ayn Rand’s Fiction: It’s As “Low As You Can Get”

in Literature , Writing | September 26th, 2018 1 Comment 1.5k
For all the grotesque humor of her stories and novels, Flannery O’Connor took the writing of fiction as seriously as it is possible to do. Even at the age of 18, she saw the task as a divine calling, writing in her journal , “I feel that God has made my life empty in this respect so that I may fill it some wonderful way.” Intense self-doubt also made her fear that she would fail in her mission, a too-familiar feeling for every creative writer: “I may grovel the rest of my life in a stew of effort, of misguided hope.”
In acquiring the needed confidence to push through fear, O’Connor also acquired a theory of fiction—a serious and demanding one that left no room for frivolous entertainments or propaganda. “I know well enough that very few people who are interested in writing are interested in writing well,” she told a student audience in her lecture “ The Nature and Aim of Fiction ” (collected in Mystery and Manners ).
Writing well, for O’Connor, meant pursuing “the habit of art,” a phrase she took from French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain . While she admits that Art is “a word that immediately scares people off, as being a little too grand,” her definition is simple enough, if vague: “something that is valuable in itself and that works in itself.” When she gets into the meat of these ideas, we see why she could be so harsh a critic of fellow writers in her many letters to friends and acquaintances.
In one particularly harsh assessment in a May, 1960 letter to playwright Maryat Lee , O’Connor wrote , “I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”
The reference to Spillane is interesting. Rand corresponded with the crime novelist and admired his work, seeming “greatly pleased,” William Thomas writes at the Randian Atlas Society , by his “sense of life,” if not “enamored of his skill in conveying it.” Surely Rand’s hyper-individualistic, purely materialist “sense of life” repelled O’Connor, but her objections to Rand’s fiction would have certainly—if not primarily—extended to the writing itself.
In her lecture, O’Connor elaborates on her definition of the art of fiction by telling her audience what it is not:
I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one. Then they find themselves writing a sketch with an essay woven through it, or an essay with a sketch woven through it, or an editorial with a character in it, or a case history with a moral, or some other mongrel thing.
Rand’s fiction presents readers with speechifying heroes who serve as one-dimensional exponents of Objectivism, and cardboard villains acting as straw caricatures of the democratic or socialist philosophies she loathed. Books like Atlas Shrugged embody all the marks of amateurism, according to O’Connor, of writers who “are conscious of problems, not of people, of questions and issues, not of the texture of existence, of case histories and everything that has a sociological smack, instead of with all those concrete details of life that make actual the mystery of our position on earth.”
For O’Connor, the habit of art requires keen observation of complex human behavior, compassion for human failings, a genuine openness to paradox and the unknown, and a preference for idiosyncratic specificity over grand abstractions and stereotypes—qualities Rand simply did not possess. Perhaps most importantly, however, as O’Connor told her student audience in “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” the writer’s “moral sense must coincide with his dramatic sense.” One imagines O’Connor felt that Rand’s moral sense could only produce profoundly impoverished drama.
Read more of O’Connor’s letters, full of her informal literary criticism, in the collection The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor .
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Without Garoppolo, 49ers try out 7 QBs to patch up position

Without Garoppolo, 49ers try out 7 QBs to patch up position SF Gate 8 hrs ago By Eric Branch Click to expand Replay Video UP NEXT Here’s why Ryder Cup will be thrilling Coming on the heels of Tiger Wood’s first PGA Tour win in five years, USA TODAY Sports’ Steve DiMeglio now tells us why we should be tuning into the Ryder Cup. USA TODAY SPORTS Sanders: I would hope Brady stood up for Gronkowski during trade talks NFL Network’s Deion Sanders tries to make sense of why the New England Patriots considered trading away tight end Rob Gronkowski and if Tom Brady should have stepped in. NFL Sanders’ ideal landing spot for Le’Veon Bell NFL Network’s Deion Sanders discusses where Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell would fit best. NFL 1 Cancel SETTINGS OFF HD HQ SD LO 49ers fans react to Garoppolo’s injury CBS SF Bay Area See more videos SHARE SHARE TWEET SHARE EMAIL What to watch next Here’s why Ryder Cup will be thrilling USA TODAY SPORTS 1:58 Sanders: I would hope Brady stood up for Gronkowski during trade talks NFL 1:34 Sanders’ ideal landing spot for Le’Veon Bell NFL 0:50 Griffen won’t play Thursday, being evaluated for mental-health issue NFL 0:38 How the Rams’ offensive line powered 3-0 start NFL 2:37 3 reasons the Jets should trade for Steelers’ Bell FOXSports 2:11 Highlights: Steelers hang on late to beat Buccaneers NFL 7:05 It’s clear nobody in NFL has figured out new roughing the passer rule Sports Illustrated 2:32 Watch: Ryder Cup USA learns Le Golf National in Tuesday practice Ryder Cup 1:34 Lawrence named Clemson starting QB CBS Sports 2:19 Tiger talks course setup, confidence and leadership Ryder Cup 8:19 Highlight: Stiff-arm of the year? Steelers TE may have it on 75-yard TD NFL 0:44 Mickelson: Would cherish a Ryder Cup victory in Europe Ryder Cup 11:54 ACC plays of the week ACC Digital Network 1:14 49ers fans react to Garoppolo’s injury CBS SF Bay Area 2:39 Highlights: Big Ben’s big night NFL 3:54 UP NEXT Video by CBS SF Bay Area
On Monday, when asked how many off-the-street quarterbacks the 49ers would be hosting for a tryout, Kyle Shanahan responded with gallows humor.
“As many as we can get,” Shanahan said. “No, I’m just joking.”
Shanahan’s half-serious thinking: If the 49ers invite enough unemployed QBs, perhaps one serviceable signal-caller would be found in the scrapheap.
On Tuesday, the 49ers hosted seven QBs in Santa Clara as they moved to address a position that took a devastating hit when Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a torn ACL in Sunday’s 38-27 loss in Kansas City.
The tryout group included Kellen Clemens, 35, T.J. Yates, 31, and Tom Savage, 28. In addition, E.J. Manuel, 28, Landry Jones, 29, and Matt Simms, 29, and undrafted rookie Kyle Allen, 22, were also reportedly in Santa Clara to compete for the roster spot.
The 49ers also invited Matt Moore, 34, but he declined the offer, his agent, Lynn Lashbrook, said. Moore, who would have been the most experienced and accomplished of the tryout QBs, has been evaluating whether to return to the NFL after starting five games for the Dolphins the past two seasons.
Moore, 15-15 as a starter, has an 81.2 passer rating, 45 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in an 11-year career spent with the Panthers and Dolphins. Clemens, Yates, Savage, Manuel, Landry and Simms have a combined record of 23-40 and have thrown 60 touchdowns and 63 interceptions. They have a combined passer rating of 72.9.
It’s clearly a group that has some warts, but the 49ers won’t be relying one of the tryout QBs to save their season.
Instead, they will be pinning their hopes on C.J. Beathard, who started five games last year as a rookie after he was selected in the third round. Beathard went 1-4 with a 69.2 passer rating, but did have a notable high-water mark late in his baptism by fire.
In his penultimate start, he guided the 49ers, then 0-9, to their first win by completing 19 of 25 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 31-21 victory the Giants. Beathard’s passer rating (123.4) was the highest by a 49ers QB in their last 45 games.
“C.J. is a gamer, a guy who loves to play,” Shanahan said. “I know even though he doesn’t like how it happened, I know he is as excited about his opportunity.”
Given the punishment Beathard endured last year, it’s fair to wonder if his opportunity with a 1-2 team will include 13 starts.
In 2017, Beathard stoically took 17 sacks and absorbed 52 hits in his five starts before he was forced to the sideline with knee and hip injuries late in a loss to the Seahawks. Beathard was hailed for his toughness, but he took a pounding partly because he held on the ball too long in the pocket.
Shanahan was asked if Beathard’s decision-making process had accelerated in his second season.
“We’ll see as these weeks go,” Shanahan said. “But I think that experience — everything he went through last year when it was good and bad — he learned from it. The stuff he did bad at, I think he’ll do better at this year.”
The absence of Garoppolo explains why the 49ers have been installed as a 10 ½-point underdogs for their visit to the Chargers (1-2) on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The plan for this week is to promote practice-squad QB Nick Mullens to the 53-man roster, which means the 49ers could carry three quarterbacks if, at some point, they sign one of their tryout players.
Given Mullens’ inexperience — he’s never taken a regular-season snap — it’s possible the 49ers would turn to a tryout QB if Beathard is sidelined this season.
In that case, they would be turning to Plan C at QB, and would have to hope they found someone serviceable in the scrap heap.
Eric Branch is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: ebranch@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @Eric_Branch
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Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Another One Bites the Dust (Remix) Queen, Wyclef Jean & Pras Michel 4:20 No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young) 4:11 These Are the Days of Our Lives 4:21 Thank God It’s Christmas (Non-Album Single) 4:19 51 Songs, 3 Hours 27 Minutes Released: Nov 13, 2000 Queen Few bands embodied the pure excess of the ’70s like Queen. Embracing the exaggerated pomp of prog rock and heavy metal, as well as vaudevillian music hall, the British quartet delved deeply into camp and bombast, creating a huge, mock-operatic sound with layered guitars and overdubbed vocals. Queen’s music was a bizarre yet highly accessible fusion of the macho and the fey. For years, their albums boasted the motto “no synthesizers were used on this record,” signaling their allegiance with the legions of post-Led Zeppelin hard rock bands. But vocalist Freddie Mercury brought an extravagant sense of camp to Queen, pushing them toward kitschy humor and pseudo-classical arrangements, as epitomized on their best-known song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Mercury, it must be said, was a flamboyant bisexual who managed to keep his sexuality in the closet until his death from AIDS in 1991. Through his legendary theatrical performances, Queen became one of the most popular bands in the world in the mid-’70s; in England, they remained second only to the Beatles in popularity and collectibility in the ’90s. Despite their enormous popularity, Queen were never taken seriously by rock critics — an infamous Rolling Stone review labeled their 1979 album Jazz as “fascist.” In spite of such harsh criticism, the band’s popularity rarely waned; even in the late ’80s, the group retained a fanatical following except in America. In the States, their popularity peaked in the early ’80s, just as they finished nearly a decade’s worth of extraordinarily popular records. And while those records were never praised, they sold in enormous numbers, and traces of Queen’s music could be heard in several generations of hard rock and metal bands in the next two decades, from Metallica to Smashing Pumpkins. The origins of Queen lay in the hard rock psychedelic group Smile, which guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor joined in 1967. Following the departure of Smile’s lead vocalist, Tim Staffell, in 1971, May and Taylor formed a group with Freddie Mercury, the former lead singer for Wreckage. Within a few months, bassist John Deacon joined them, and they began rehearsing. Over the next two years, as all four members completed college, they simply rehearsed, playing just a handful of gigs. By 1973, they had begun to concentrate on their career, releasing their debut album, Queen, that year and setting out on their first tour. Queen was more or less a straight metal album and failed to receive much acclaim, but Queen II became an unexpected British breakthrough early in 1974. Before its release, the band played Top of the Pops, performing “Seven Seas of Rhye.” Both the song and the performance were smash successes, and the single rocketed into the Top Ten, setting the stage for Queen II to reach number five. Following its release, the group embarked on its first American tour, supporting Mott the Hoople. On the strength of their campily dramatic performances, the album climbed to number 43 in the States. Queen released their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, before the end of 1974. The music hall-meets-Zeppelin “Killer Queen” climbed to number two on the U.K. charts, taking the album to number two as well. Sheer Heart Attack made some inroads in America as well, setting the stage for the breakthrough of 1975’s A Night at the Opera. Queen labored long and hard over the record; according to many reports, it was the most expensive rock record ever made at the time of its release. The first single from the record, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” became Queen’s signature song, and with its bombastic, mock-operatic structure punctuated by heavy metal riffing, it encapsulates their music. It is also the symbol for their musical excesses — the song took three weeks to record, and there were so many vocal overdubs on the record that it was possible to see through the tape at certain points. To support “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen shot one of the first conceptual music videos, and the gamble paid off as the single spent nine weeks at number one in England, breaking the record for the longest run at number one. The song and A Night at the Opera were equally successful in America, as the album climbed into the Top Ten and quickly went platinum. Following A Night at the Opera, Queen were established as superstars, and they quickly took advantage of all their status had to offer. Their parties and indulgence quickly became legendary in the rock world, yet they continued to work at a rapid rate. In the summer of 1976, they performed a free concert at London’s Hyde Park that broke attendance records, and they released the hit single “Somebody to Love” a few months later. It was followed by A Day at the Races, which was essentially a scaled-down version of A Night at the Opera that reached number one in the U.K. and number five in the U.S. They continued to pile up hit singles in both Britain and America over the next five years, as each of their albums went into the Top Ten, always going gold and usually platinum in the process. Because Queen embraced such mass success and adoration, they were scorned by the rock press, especially when they came to represent all of the worst tendencies of the old guard in the wake of punk. Nevertheless, the public continued to buy Queen records. Featuring the Top Five double-A-sided single “We Are the Champions”/”We Will Rock You,” News of the World became a Top Ten hit in 1977. The following year, Jazz nearly replicated that success, with the single “Fat Bottomed Girls”/”Bicycle Race” becoming an international hit despite the massive bad publicity surrounding their media stunt of staging a nude female bicycle race. Queen were at the height of their popularity as they entered the ’80s, releasing The Game, their most diverse album to date, in 1980. On the strength of two number one singles — the campy rockabilly “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and the disco-fied “Another One Bites the Dust” — The Game became the group’s first American number one album. However, the bottom fell out of the group’s popularity, particularly in the U.S., shortly afterward. Their largely instrumental soundtrack to Flash Gordon was coldly received later in 1980. With the help of David Bowie, Queen were able to successfully compete with new wave with the 1981 hit single “Under Pressure” — their first U.K. number one since “Bohemian Rhapsody” — which was included both on their 1981 Greatest Hits and 1982’s Hot Space. Instead of proving the group’s vitality, “Under Pressure” was a last gasp. Hot Space was only a moderate hit, and the more rock-oriented The Works (1984) also was a minor hit, with only “Radio Ga Ga” receiving much attention. Shortly afterward, they left Elektra and signed with Capitol. Faced with their decreased popularity in the U.S. and waning popularity in Britain, Queen began touring foreign markets, cultivating a large, dedicated fan base in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, continents that most rock groups ignored. In 1985, they returned to popularity in Britain in the wake of their showstopping performance at Live Aid. The following year, they released A Kind of Magic to strong European sales, but they failed to make headway in the States. The same fate befell 1989’s The Miracle, yet 1991’s Innuendo was greeted more favorably, going gold and peaking at number 30 in the U.S. Nevertheless, it still was a far bigger success in Europe, entering the U.K. charts at number one. By 1991, Queen had drastically scaled back their activity, causing many rumors to circulate about Freddie Mercury’s health. On November 23, he issued a statement confirming that he was stricken with AIDS; he died the next day. The following spring, the remaining members of Queen held a memorial concert at Wembley Stadium that was broadcast to an international audience of more than one billion. Featuring such guest artists as David Bowie, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Def Leppard, and Guns N’ Roses, the concert raised millions for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which was established for AIDS awareness. The concert coincided with a revival of interest in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which climbed to number two in the U.S. and number one in the U.K. in the wake of its appearance in the Mike Myers comedy Wayne’s World. Following Mercury’s death, the remaining members of Queen were fairly quiet. Brian May released his second solo album, Back to the Light, in 1993, ten years after the release of his first record. Roger Taylor cut a few records with the Cross, which he had been playing with since 1987, while Deacon essentially retired. The three reunited in 1994 to record backing tapes for vocal tracks Mercury recorded on his deathbed. The resulting album, Made in Heaven, was released in 1995 to mixed reviews and strong sales, particularly in Europe. Crown Jewels, a box set repackaging their first eight LPs, followed in 1998. Archival live recordings, DVDs, and compilations kept appearing through the new millennium. The Queen name was revived in 2005, but this time with “+ Paul Rodgers” appended to it. Rodgers, the former lead singer of Free and Bad Company, joined Brian May and Roger Taylor (John Deacon remained retired) for several live shows, one of which was documented on 2005’s Return of the Champions, a double-disc release issued by the Hollywood label. International touring continued, as did a new studio album featuring Rodgers’ vocals. Released under the “Queen + Paul Rodgers” tag, The Cosmos Rocks appeared in September 2008, followed by an American release one month later. Reception was decidedly mixed. Rodgers departed from Queen in 2009 and in his wake came a new compilation called Absolute Greatest. TV appearances followed over the next two years, including a spot on the 2009 American Idol finale where they performed with Adam Lambert, and then in 2010 Queen wound up leaving their home of EMI for Island, which brought all of the group’s recordings to Universal Records. A new round of reissues followed in 2011, along with a performance with Lambert at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the vocalist soon became a fixture with the band, as Queen performed several big concerts and television performances in 2012 and 2013, followed by a full tour in 2014. Also that year, Queen released another compilation, Queen Forever, which was anchored by reworked versions of three old songs, including a solo number by Mercury where he duetted with Michael Jackson. The archival live album, A Night at the Odeon, featuring the band’s 1975 Christmas Eve performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, appeared in 2015. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine ORIGIN

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