Flannery O’Connor was among the greatest American writers of
the 2nd half of the 20th century; she was a writer in the Southern
tradition of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Carson McCullers,
who wrote such classic novels and short stories as Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, and “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She is perhaps
as well known for her tantalizing brand of Southern Gothic humor as
she is for her Catholicism. That these tendencies should be so happily
married in her fiction is no longer a surprise. The real surprise is learning that this much beloved icon of American literature did not set out to be a fiction writer, but a cartoonist. This seems to be the last well-kept secret of her creative life.
Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons, the first book devoted to the author’s work in the visual arts, emphasizes O’Connor’s
most prolific period as a cartoonist, drawing for her high school and college publications in the early 1940s.
While many of these images lampoon student life and the impact of World War II on the home front, something
much more is happening. Her cartoons are a creative threshing floor for experimenting and trying out techniques that
are deployed later with such great success in her fiction.
O’Connor learns how to set up and carry a joke visually, how to write a good one-liner and set it off against a background of complex visual narration. She develops and asserts her taste for a stock set of character types, attitudes, situations, exaggerations, and grotesques, and she learns how to present them not to distort the truth, but to expose her
vision of it.
She worked in both pen & ink and linoleum cuts, and her rough-hewn technique combined with her acidic observations to form a visual precursor to her prose. Fantagraphics is honored to bring the early cartoons of this American
literary treasure to a 21st century readership.
For an audience resistant to your views, O’Connor once wrote, “draw large and startling figures.” In her fiction, as in
her cartoons, these shocks to the system never come without a laugh.
"The images – rendered in black-and-white in a stylistically wobbly hand –
demonstrate the thinly veiled dark humor and snappy dialogue O’Connor would come
to perfect in her short stories. She was often the butt of her own jokes: the none-too-perfect girl, hair full of snarls and body full of lumps, unable to get the guy but smart
enough to get the last laugh. An engrossing and entertaining look at the blossoming
talents of one of literature’s great iconoclasts." – Under the Radar