Having recently visited Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home/museum in Savannah, Ga., I was delighted the very next week to learn of the DVD release of Uncommon Grace—a production that draws from a video tour of that home, its guides, and artifacts from the site. The 62-minute film is the first documentary about the life of O’Connor (1925-1964), a devout Roman Catholic writer who has been called the “master of the modern short story.”
Born and raised in the Deep South, she is known for the use of the macabre and grotesque in her fiction, which she used to awaken people from their spiritual slumber. As she once wrote, “For the hard of hearing you shout and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.” While a devout Catholic, the subjects of her stories were most often eccentric Southern fundamentalist Christians. Her stories consistently address moments when a fallen or seriously flawed character is presented with a chance for redemption.
O’Connor died tragically young at the age of 39; during her shortened career she published only two novels and just 32 short stories. But her posthumously published The Complete Stories won the 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
Atlanta-based producer-writer Bridget Kurt spent two years researching and scripting Uncommon Grace, using rare photographs and interviews with current O’Connor scholars to tell the author’s life story. Viewers learn how O’Connor’s family life and Southern culture, Catholic faith, and deadly illness shaped her imaginative storytelling.
After a diagnosis of lupus and a projected five years to live, O’Connor went on to live 13 more years, and in fact had her most productive years of writing. It was on her deathbed that she wrote “Parker’s Back” and “Judgement Day.”
While the DVD covers territory that will be familiar to many of O’Connor’s legion of fans, the film thoughtfully reveals details and insights to the delight of those interested in her corpus. In particular, it will serve as a rich resource for high school and college instructors who teach the violent, grace-filled stories of Flannery O’Connor. (Beata)