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Tiresome Novel Synopsis

The other day I had the experience of talking to a young man of the same age as the girls I find I can’t talk to. He was a little older perhaps, 23, just out of Harvard, and wanting to write. I had never heard of him but he called me up and asked if he could come down from Atlanta and spend the afternoon and after I had said, yes, he adds, “and I’ll bring a manuscript.” Well he came and spent the afternoon and it was not a question of my having to say anything; all i had to do was listen. He was writing a deeply philosophical novel (thought he) about a lad horribly like himself who was going to commit suicide in the last chapter. All the chapters leading up were devoted to his reasons for this action, full of stuff about the “sense of time.” He explained that while there were long philosophical passages, he was cutting these up with scenes. I was treated to the reading of one scene which he announced was the “love” section. At that point I was too tired to laugh so I didn’t disgrace myself. I discreetly tried to suggest that fiction was about people and not about the sense of time but I am sure made no impression.

—Flannery O’Connor, in a letter to Cecil Dawkins, 17 November 57. Collected in The Habit of Being

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