Group Read, June 2018: The Violent Bear it Away

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Group Read, June 2018: The Violent Bear it Away

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jun 1, 2018, 8:03 am

Our June group Read is Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear it Away. Please join us and post any comments you have on this thread.

jun 1, 2018, 9:15 am

I've read it before so won't be reading it now, but I'm interested in hearing the experiences (because I recall the book to be quite...provocative)

jun 1, 2018, 3:30 pm

I purchased a copy (good price on amazon) and will join this month's group read. I won't be able to start for a few days though.

jun 2, 2018, 6:16 am

I’ll be starting this today. I really enjoyed her short story collection that is on the list, despite not really being a fan of short stories in general.

jun 4, 2018, 1:55 pm

>4 japaul22: I too really liked the short story collection on the list and do not normally like short stories. This novel reminds me of those stories, as far as I remember them. It's both humorous and painful, and sometimes the combination is quite uncomfortable, and that seems to be the point. I feel sorry for pretty much everybody but they do not want my pity, and a lot of the time they don't really deserve it. Very interesting.

The crazy preacher uncle with his mania for baptism reminds me of the father in The Poisonwood Bible, who I always thought was implausible but now I figure was just supposed to be insane.

jun 4, 2018, 3:34 pm

I'm about 2/3 through and think its really well done though maybe not "enjoyable" considering the topic. I find it interesting to see the generations of mental illness and it connection to religious fervor. Also trying to figure out if the young Tarwater is mentally ill or if his condition is just a result of his odd, isolate, and in a way abusive upbringing. And the way none of the generations of men can relate to women at all.

>5 annamorphic: I feel sorry for pretty much everybody but they do not want my pity, and a lot of the time they don't really deserve it. Yes!

jun 7, 2018, 2:04 pm

I've finished this and in the end it just wasn't for me. In fact, I find it hard to imagine many people would really connect to this, at least now, almost 60 years after it was written.

All the religious speak and the way the characters' insanity projects itself through religion was so relentless and sort of put me off. And Rayber's supposed ability to "control" his madness which isn't realistic to me - as though mental conditions can be controlled through willpower. That's an old-fashioned idea in my mind. And then I'm not sure what she was aiming to say.

I also don't understand the title. I love the words, but don't really get what they mean. Even after reading the Bible verse that it comes from. Ideas?

jun 7, 2018, 2:51 pm

I'd say Rayber is being mocked here as a 'rationalist' who wants to be in complete control of oneself and his surroundings and is thus doomed to failure (I'd say this book and the relationship between the principal characters is mirrored in the short story The Lame Shall Enter First, and thus it's recommended reading).

The Bible passage the title comes from is particularly cryptic, I have seen different suggestions on its meaning in itself, so its connection to the book is equally cryptic...
One of the favourite themes of O'Connor is an element of transcendence entering into everyday life, a man coming in contact with divine, and this contact is never easy and often experienced in terms of conflict, insecurity, even violence when what was can no longer be. Several of her stories are variations of this theme though admittedly the theme of destruction and violence is more prominent here than her other stories.
Mason fights and attempts to bargain and in this way sows destruction all around him and almost destroys himself but finally bears away the warning of the terrible speed of mercy?

(and as such, it is sometimes pretty hard to call the endings of O'Connor stories "happy" or "sad", in many of them it kinda depends on the point of view).

jul 5, 2018, 6:26 am

I got to this one late and don't have much to add to what has been said above. I had previously read Everything That Rises Must Converge which follows similarly narrow-minded people along the track to a tragic end; I enjoyed that collection of short stories a bit more than this. This book has one story and therefore unfolds more slowly. Well written but no hope or happy endings.

jul 17, 2018, 8:00 am

>9 puckers: I agree, I liked the short stories better - and I'm usually more of a novel reader.
I thought the ending was too predictable and didn't understand why the schoolteacher (I forget character names the instant I close a book) didn't see it coming. Or did he and pretended not to so it wouldn't be his fault?

aug 13, 2018, 4:55 pm

I agree with puckers as well, I much preferred the short stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge. I found this book hard to read at times.

aug 14, 2018, 1:55 pm

I just finished and feel the same. I liked the book but I think she is a much better short story writer.

aug 16, 2018, 4:57 pm

I finished the book a week ago, and really enjoyed it. Well, enjoy is probably not the right word, but O'Connor is a very powerful writer who really had me in her grasp. I fount it hard to put the book down, and even though the end was predictable I kept hoping that Francis could escape his fate.

Overall the book felt very "old". It was like reading a Greek tragedy. Everybody, including the protagonists, know the horrible fate that is predicted for them but they still cannot escape it. Whether they are doomed because of godly intervention or because of human frailty is not clear, and it doesn't really matter.