“I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it.”

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In her lifetime, Southern writer Flannery O’Connor produced countless short stories and letters, as well as two novels, all of which continue to be regarded as exemplars of the Southern Gothic style. She lived in Milledgeville, Georgia, for much of her life, and created some of her most memorable characters while living at Andalusia, her family farm. Gathered here are a few favorite lines from her dispatches and prose. For more sentiments and stories from O’Connor’s pen, read The Complete Stories and Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose; then work your way through Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, and The Habit of Being, the latter of which is a compelling compilation of the writer's correspondence with friends and colleagues.   

"When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"In yourself right now is all the place you've got."  (Wise Blood)

 "I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"Total non-retention has kept my education from being a burden to me."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"Harcourt sent my book to Evelyn Waugh and his comment was: 'If this is really the unaided work of a young lady, it is a remarkable product.' My mother was vastly insulted. She put the emphasis on if and lady. Does he suppose you’re not a lady? she says. Who is he?"  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"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."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"Your letter gave me the sense that you couldn’t work for watching yourself work. I may be wrong but if that happens it is time to leave Walden Pond and seek out society."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not."  (Wise Blood)

"I believe there are as many types of saints as there are souls to be saved."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"Whatever you do anyway, remember that these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"People without hope not only don't write novels, but what is more to the point, they don't read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor)

"The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode."  (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick."  (A Temple of the Holy Ghost)

"The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled."  (A Good Man Is Hard to Find)

"It does not take much to make us realize what fools we are, but the little it takes is long in coming."  (A Prayer Journal)

"I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial […] I can’t think of anybody else’s that it might remind you of. Nobody would have been found dead writing it but me…"  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"There won't be any biographies of me, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken farm do not make for exciting copy."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)

"I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing."  (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor)