brutal grace

A thoughtful piece:

Throughout much of her life, Flannery O'Connor struggled against what she perceived as dangerous and excessive sentimentality among her readers, defending her stories against accusations of violence, brutality, and "gothic grotesqueness." For her, violence was an essential part of her message, for "to expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness." Responding to her critics, O'Connor made an important point: "Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them."


One modern-day artist making that connection may be Cormac McCarthy, the reclusive author who is considered by many to be America's greatest living writer. A closer examination of the three cinematic adaptations based on his books -- All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road -- reveals him to be as focused on the questions of nature, violence, and grace as O'Connor was, though he has been much less inclined to self-explanation than was she.