Liberal Arts Blog — Stalking Magic Sentences: Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Chinua Achebe

Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Culture, and Religion Day

Today’s Topic: Stalking Magic Sentences: Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964), William Faulkner (1897–1962), and Chinua Achebe (1930–2015)

Do you collect sentences, file them, and let them marinate? Do you file them by author or theme or both? Does this sound like a good idea? Is this a habit that should be taught in school? It used to be. This was called common-placing. Milton did it. Locke wrote about how to do it. Without any training, I do my best and highly recommend it. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

FLANNERY O’CONNOR (1925–1964) — author of Wise Blood (1952) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955)

1. “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”

2. “Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”

3. “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”

NB: O’Connor once described her young self as a “pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.”

WILLIAM FAULKNER (1897–1962) — author of The Sound and the Fury, Nobel Prize (1949)

1.”An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.”

2. “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”

3. “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”

NB: Just learned that Faulkner skipped second grade but then back-slid and had to repeat both 11th and 12th grade in high school, attended the University of Mississippi for three semesters before dropping out after getting a “D’ in English.

CHINUA ACHEBE (1930–2015) — Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart (1959) “the most widely read book in modern African literature”

1. “Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.”

2. “Art is man’s constant effort to create for himself a different order of reality from that which is given to him.”

3. “When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”

NB: Born an Igbo chief in the town of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, Achebe was a supporter of Biafran independence during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970, a sharp critic of Joseph Conrad as “a thorough-going racist” (1975), and a university professor in the United States (Bard, then Brown) from 1990 until his death in 2015.

Flannery O’Connor

William Faulkner

Chinua Achebe

Commonplace book


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared. This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.



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