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The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

O'Connor, Flannery, ed. Sally Fitzgerald | Vintage, 1980


p. 163

O’Connor reflects on the fact that the combination of her sickness and her success as an author has probably deepened her understanding of how life works. “I gave up thinking anything could be worked out on its surface. I have found it out, like everybody else, the hard way, and only in the last years as a result of I think two things, sickness and success. One of them alone wouldn’t have done it for me, but the combination was guaranteed. I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies. Success is almost as isolating and nothing points out vanity as well. But the surface hereabouts has always been very flat. I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.”