Weekly updates and mini reviews of two Halloween-themed short story collections: Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find and Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories.
This week my reading list consisted of twentieth-century classics of Gothic fiction and horror, or so I thought—one of the titles, Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild and Other Stories, turned out to be a mix of speculative fiction, science fiction, and suspense. This month I’ll be participating in Nonfiction November, before knocking off as many titles as possible off my TBR list in December, but it was nice to end October with a few classics.
Everything I read this week I enjoyed. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle were both very accessible in spite of having been written over half a century ago, as was Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild, first published in 1995, was equally enjoyable. It’s not hard to see why these books, with their stellar prose and absorbing narratives, have survived and continued to remain in print. Mini reviews of O’Connor’s and Butler’s short story collections are included below!
Coated with cynicism, the stories of Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find question the possibility of redemption in a society nearly rotten. Almost all the stories grotesque and make strange Biblical narratives, from the drowning of demonic pigs to angels in the wilderness. O’Connor’s descriptions of the decaying South are breathtaking, and her ability to create sympathetic but unlikable characters is impressive. The most memorable moments in her work are those rare instances when grace breaks through the grimy setting and offers protagonists the chance to change.
A collection of seven speculative short stories, featuring a pair of essays on writing, Octavia E. Butler’s Bloodchild uses the tropes of science fiction to probe existential questions and imagine alternatives to the present. The fiction ranges from considering what a world stripped of speech might look like, to questioning how one might create a utopian society if granted godlike powers. In precise prose, Butler moves at a measured pace in all the stories, lending herself enough time to delve into the subtleties of her ideas. Her essays, by contrast, offer practical advice about craft, in addition to recounting the difficulties she faced as a Black woman author working in a genre dominated by white men. The essays were a highlight of Bloodchild, and while I’m not a fan of sci-fi, the stories were so thoughtfully constructed that I enjoyed the collection as a whole.