“In the novelist’s case, prophecy is a matter of seeing near things with their extensions of meaning and thus of seeing far things close up. The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque. Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Flannery O’Connor
What are the “far things” O’Connor is talking about?—the connection between close-up realism on Earth and a higher spiritual Truth. God and our relationship with Him, however weak or strong or strange; this is what O’Connor writes about. This is what I strive to write about, too.
To show God’s presence in the world, a writer who wants to bring far things close up often uses the strange or the outlandish. O’Connor called it the ‘grotesque.’ She was an author who wrote fifty years ago, when not only the South, but most other areas recognized the outlandish as just that.
Today, the rules concerning what is strange have changed. Oddity has become almost normal. Yet God hasn’t changed. He is just as apparent in our world, maybe even more so. And to present Him in fiction, a writer cannot just whisper, or use sentimental fluff to show His action through people. A writer concerned with presenting the chance of salvation has to yell above an already noisy and distracted world.
Many of us yearn for a chance of restoration. And most readers have a desire for some redemptive act in a novel or story that offers the chance of restoration as well. We long for that moment of grace that will turn us, or better us, or lift us up to higher place in the eyes of those we love. Yet we often forget that the price of restoration sometimes takes the grotesqueness of a crucifixion.
I’m polishing up a novel about restoration now–and I ask for your prayers that I succeed.