The more you read the more you realize where the holes are in your reading. One of my holes is mid-20th century literature. This past year I have read seven books by Madeleine L’Engle and I will continue to read more this coming year. But I need to spread out.
The Terrible Speed of Mercy is my preparation for reading O’Connor this coming year. I have only read, A Good Man is Hard to Find and A Prayer Journal. After reading A Good Man is Hard to Find, I knew I needed to read more about O’Connor before reading more. A Prayer Journal is an edited version of her journal while she was at University of Iowa for graduate school. Image Journal has a similar collection of her college journal entries that I will read soon.
But other than knowing she was Catholic, from Georgia and died young, I had little real background on O’Connor. This brief biography charted her life and writing well. Her Lupus and the complications created by the treatment of the Lupus left her fairly disabled for much of her adult life. (Her father died of Lupus when she was a teen.) That disability limited her movement, but not her writing, until near the end of her life when she had little energy.
I am not particularly sure why The Terrible Speed of Mercy has the subtitle, A Spiritual Biography. It is a biography and it does talk a lot about her spiritual life. But not any more than what most Christian biographies of Christians do. Her faith was real and important to her. Her stories were an outgrowth of that faith. But this is not a spiritual biography in the way that Devin Brown’s biography of CS Lewis is a spiritual biography.
That is not to say that The Terrible Speed of Mercy is not worth reading. I think it is a good introductory biography. Especially if you are reading it on Kindle and pick it up on sale (right now it is $3.99). It is a quick read, only about 160 pages of main content. But it is a good overview that I think will prepare me for reading A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth, which I have next on my O’Connor reading list. And then my plan is to read the Image Journal edition of her college journals and then her first novel Wise Blood.