The Atlantic‘s new “Big Heart” feature focuses on authors writing about their favorite literary passages. Jim Shepard has shared his thoughts on Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, along with some fairly epic marginalia in his copy of the work in question. (For more thoughts on O’Connor’s work, might I direct you to the first installment of Jen Vafidis’s “The Reading Life”?)
Shepard looks beyond the more immediately striking aspects of O’Connor’s work to get at something more broad:
But I think we’re tyrannized by a misunderstanding of Joyce’s notion of the epiphany. That stories should toodle on their little track toward a moment where the characters understand something they didn’t understand before—and, at that moment, they’re transformed into better people.
He goes on to discuss how he’s attempted to apply the principle learned here to his own work. It’s instructive, both in theory and — for those aficionados of Shepard’s work — in practice.