A new film explores the life and work of the Southern writer.

By Caroline Rogers
April 24, 2021
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A new documentary that premiered on PBS this year explores the life of Flannery O'Connor, one of the South's most well-known short story writers. The program—entitled Flanneryappeared as part of the PBS American Masters series and won the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film.

According to PBS, the feature-length documentary "explores the life and legacy of the literary icon with never-before-seen archival footage, original animations, O'Connor's newly discovered personal letters and excerpts from her stories read by actress Mary Steenburgen." It also features archival interviews with O'Connor's friends and family as well as new interviews with writers such as Mary Karr, Hilton Als, Alice Walker, Tobias Wolff, and Alice McDermott. You can watch a preview of Flannery below.

In the preview, we hear excerpts from writers and actors reflecting on her work. We also hear from O'Connor in archival interview footage. She says in one excerpt, "I think that a serious fiction writer describes an action only in order to reveal a mystery." Her own works explore the mysteries she mentions; they include fiction collected in The Complete Stories, which won the National Book Award in 1972; Everything That Rises Must Converge; and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Her novels include Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and her prose and letters are collected in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose and The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor.

Flannery is directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco and is a production of Long Distance Educational Media in association with THIRTEEN's American Masters. It aired in March on PBS and is available to watch now at pbs.org with a Thirteen Passport subscription. The film is also available to rent at amazon.com. You can find more information at flanneryfilm.com.

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For further reading, turn to the works listed above. The Complete Stories is a compendium of the writer's short stories, and Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose collects the writer's essays on writing, teaching, and religion. O'Connor's epistolary correspondence is contained in The Habit of Being, a collection of letters written by the author throughout her lifetime.