Former Shows & Episodes

Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – O’Dell on O’Connor

Today’s program is one of our periodic shows devoted to past masters, heroic word patriots who overcame great obstacles, who wrote in new and innovative ways, or who defied convention by visiting formerly taboo topics and thereby opened new fields of exploration for literature. On this episode of Word Patriots we will be discussing the work of Flannery O’Connor. The novelist and short story writer was born and died in Georgia and studied at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. The following entry on O’Connor appears in the Avenel Companion to English and American literature: “She is usually said to be a Southern Gothic and/ or Catholic writer. Both are probably true, subject to severe qualification. Her typical characters are indeed God-ridden but not in a way that seems uniquely Catholic. Rather they seem the essence of Protestantism, seeking an individual and immediate relationship with God. They stalk him, defy him, try to trick him into some sign by doing the things ‘that people have quit doing—like boiling in oil or being a saint or walling up cats.’ Even the psychopathic murderer of ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ commits his murders in an attempt to force God to reveal himself. But grace can be arrived at only through the kind of self knowledge arrived at in ‘The Violent Bear It Away’ (1960) by Rayber, who has his eyes burned clean and is able at last to look into his own heart and recognize his real place in the world. Love, however, is not the clue to the saving communion with the world as it is with so many writers. The clue is suffering, and Hazel Motes (‘Wise Blood,’ 1952) burns out his eyes with quicklime so he can see better.” My guest today is Tawni O’Dell. She is the New York Times best-selling author of four novels. Her first, “Back Roads,” was both a Book-of-the-Month Club Main and an Oprah’s Book Club selection, and is currently in development as a major motion picture by Michael Ohoven, the producer of the Academy-Award-winning, “Capote” with a screenplay written by Tawni herself. Following the publication of “Back Roads” in 2000, Tawni has completed and published three more novels: “Coal Run,” “Sister Mine,” and “Fragile Beasts.” She is also a contributor to several anthologies including “Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female.” Her work has been translated into ten languages and been published in over forty countries. Flannery O’Connor is one of Tawni’s favorite authors, as she is also one of mine. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: See also Amazon’s Flannery O’Connor page: Amazon’s author page for Tawni O’Dell: .