THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY BY FLANNERY O’CONNOR

So, there’s this big Thomas Bernhard fan and, get this, he starts reading a book by Flannery O’Connor, who he loves, right, ordinarily anyway, and about 100 pages into the thing he finds himself complaining about the, uh, repetition. Like, what the fuck, huh? You like repetition, dude, you even reviewed a book called Repetition and raved about it. And, hello, Thomas Bernhard?? He’s all repetition; he writes like one goddamn sentence and then just, uh, repeats it hundreds of times for something like 200 pages. And I told him this, I told him that he was being inconsistent, that there was just no way he could slam the O’Connor book for being repetitive, not with a clear conscience, and he said: ‘go fuck yourself’, which is rude. But then he said ‘no wait, let me explain.’ And I said, ‘go on.’ And he said, ‘repetition is fine when it’s intended, when it’s a tool that the author uses to create a specific effect.’ I nodded at this, because these were sage words. ‘But I didn’t get that impression from the O’Connor book. It didn’t feel like a style choice, but more like lazy writing.’ I wanted to say that he couldn’t possibly know this. Lazy writing? What you ever wrote, Mr Big Shot? Sweet F.A., that’s what. ‘The thing is, the book is about a crazy old man who kidnaps this kid, and then the old man dies and the now also crazy kid buries him and then burns down the house, and just think how irritated I must have  been by the writing to want to shut a book about all that.’ ‘You musta,’ I said, ‘because that sounds awesome.’ ‘It does, right? But she kept repeating herself, like she must have told me a gazillion times that the kid had been told he was to be a prophet – I heard you the first time, Flannery! A prophet, I get it – and how the old guy felt as though, when he was living with the kid’s uncle, he was being investigated by him – investigated! No need to make a mental note of that, cos Flannery will keep reminding you of it – and worst of all she kept describing how everyone was looking at everyone else, literally all the time, ten times a page.’ ‘People look at other people’, I said, ‘I’m looking at you right now.’ ‘Yeah, I know. But it’s a given though, isn’t it? People look at people. I don’t need a writer to tell me that someone’s looking at someone all the time. He looked! He stared! He glanced! She looked! She stared! They looked! They goddamn stared! You looking at me? Well there’s nobody else here! [Singing] Me looking at you, you looking at me, it’s always the same, it’s just a shame, that’s all. That’s a line from a song by Genesis! Ge-nes-is. This book…made me think…of Genesis. You know, Phil Collins? Smug bastard? That ain’t right, that just ain’t right.’ ‘No, I can see that,’ I said. Then he started to cry, and I felt bad. Poor bastard. Genesis.

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