Tag Archives: fiction

Dessert & Literature: Flannery O’Connor

I anticipate that this posting will be the first of many in a similarly-themed series, as my favorite meal of the day is dessert and one of my favorite types of literature is southern lit! Why not combine the two? We’ll start this series off with Flannery O’Connor, one of the most well-known southern writers of the twentieth century. You can find O’Connor’s short fiction in either of two volumes: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything that Rises Must Converge.

I found a great article about O’Connor written by Hugh Ruppersburg, Interim Vice Provost and Senior Associatate Dan of the Arts & Sciences at the University of Georgia at: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/short-stories-flannery-oconnor. His article is a helpful introduction to O’Connor as a writer, and it also serves as a brief and understandable review of her writing style. Ruppersburg aptly notes that the defining characteristics of O’Connor’s short fiction are: “economy of form, biting satire, vivid characterizations, and a stern moral vision.” I generally agree with this description, as well as his observation that O’Connor sets opposing forces against one another in her stories, including “the modern secular world with its emphasis on science, social programs, humanism, and progress, and the God-centered spiritual world with its emphasis on sin and salvation.”

Not only is O’Connor’s  short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” undoubtedly her most famous work, this piece also conveniently (and probably unsurprisingly) serves as an archetypal O’Connor short fiction piece, showing many defining elements of her style as shortly described above. We see the juxtaposition of an ordinarily dull family against an undercurrent of evil. Basically, this is one creepy story, like a horror movie you see by peeking through your hands—you know the ending will be bad, yet you just keep reading, drawn to the strangeness of the story. At least, that’s my experience reading this story.

I paired two desserts with “A Good Man is Hard to Find,”  because a good dessert, while not hard to find, is certainly hard to choose (much like choosing which of O’Connor’s short stories to use for this post!). Plus, two desserts symbolizes an internal conflict I have while reading the story: while I am not particularly a fan of the family, as each member has apparent flaws and no real redeeming qualities, I also don’t think they deserved what the Misfit had in store for them.

Chocolate ganache mousse + strawberry cheesecake

The first dessert is a chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate cake on the bottom. With this dessert, I added a strawberry cheesecake. I ended up putting portions of each on the fork to combine them for a delicious chocolate-strawberry combination that went well with the juxtapositions taking place in the story. We have your average strawberry cheesecake flavor set against the dark, rich backdrop of chocolate. Much like the ordinary bickering among the family members, we don’t really see value in or feel empathy for them until they are set against the dark backdrop of the Misfit and his lackeys.

What I love about “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is that no matter how many times I read it, I always feel like I’ve gotten some kind of insight into O’Connor’s idea of a real human truth. The Misfit’s cruelty is so abrupt and inevitable, and the family’s squabbling subsequently seems so trivial,  I can’t help but think O’Connor is giving us many life lessons, albeit cynical ones. This story seems to imply that there can be no escape, not even pleading with a higher authority, from absolute evil that permeates ordinary life. I for one do not think life to be always so hopeless or cruel (O’Connor perhaps did not either), but “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is still an incredibly intriguing story that I hope you enjoy reading or rereading as much as I have!

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Independent Press Profile

2LeafPress

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of talking to Gabrielle David, publisher of 2LeafPress, an independent poetry press out of New York. The origins of the press are quite interesting, and I hope my notes do it justice!

2LeafPress aims to promote a diverse crowd of multicultural writers–and its view of multicultural is broad: “Oh, by the way, we consider all writers multicultural.” Whether the story comes from a writer’s personal background or his or her travels and observations, 2LP knows there’s a multicultural angle there, and it wants those stories! The press accepts literary works of poetry, fiction, memoir, and nonfiction, as well as collections and anthologies of short stories and translations, and it looks for works in those fields that speak with directness and honesty about the human experience.

Technically, the basic idea of a press along the lines of 2Leaf’s current mission has been around since at least 2001–which is actually when the name for the press emerged. David’s father was going through some health problems and was on a homemade pie-cooking spree (because homemade is healthier than prepackaged options and he loves pie!), and he had trouble making the decorative leaves for them–How do you get the two leaves?! he asked, but she didn’t know what he meant, and now it’s a long-standing family joke. But the idea of the leaves worked for David, who had the idea of a press brewing. People wrote on leaves in ancient times (so we have the theme of past revived), and the imagery of green leaves, falling leaves, and dead leaves have been tropes in fiction and poetry practically since that time. So David liked the symbolism she saw in the name, and she decided to go with it.

But back to how the press’s origins are actually much earlier than the past few years. Currently 2LP operates as an imprint of the IAAS (Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc.), which somewhat ironically started out as an independent press itself (but that’s a whole other story). Colleagues of David had been asking her for years to start making books because those she had published previously were really beautiful books, ones that people appreciated and knew were made with dedication and care.

The press started with an open call for submissions, as most do, but it was quickly inundated and soon changed its policy to closed submissions. Luckily, though (said David), some unsolicited submissions still slip through. For example, Whereabouts, a recently released anthology of the best nonfiction stories from Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, wouldn’t have made it through if not for one of 2LP’s volunteer employees. David said she would have passed on its proposal but was convinced to take another look by the employee’s enthusiasm for the project.

And that kind of enthusiasm is exactly what David loves about working with a diverse group of people. Thanks to others’ inputs, the press is moving in all kinds of directions that she never imagined. Currently, it’s making quite a name for itself in the academic world for its translations, spurring a series of translated works within the press. And the press’s work with the Nuyorican poets has really raised some noise.

The best part of being a small press, according to David, is being able to find writers and “groom” them–really give them the attention they need to be great and to grow and develop their craft. Rather than turning to the big publishers and begging for a contract, 2Leaf writers really get to converse with the press, and they always ask, “When’s the next book?”

The hard part, she says, is the money and marketing. How does a small publisher organically build its audience and still stay afloat? It’s a dilemma 2LP is still learning to navigate, but it’s doing a great job in its experiment. We’re excited to keep watching what comes out from this “small press with big ideas.”

You can connect with 2LP on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, check out their up-to-date website!

 

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