Winter 1998 • Vol. XX No. 1 Kenyon Review ClassicsJanuary 1, 1998 |

The Action of Mercy

I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. . . . For me the meaning of life is centered in our Redemption of Christ and what I see in the world I see in relation to that.                FLANNERY O'CONNOR "The Fiction Writer and His Country" Originally published in The Kenyon Review in Spring 1955, and reprinted in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1956), this graceful, parable-like short story, with its precise, weighted language and its comically sympathetic rural Georgians, Mr. Head and his ten-year-old grandson Nelson, is virtually unique in Flannery O'Connor's oeuvre, ending not in violent death, nor even in devastating irony, but with tenderness. O'Connor's more characteristic prose fiction bristles with cruel and sometimes savagely funny observations; "The Artificial Nigger" is comedy of another order. Because they are an old man (Mr. Head at sixty behaves rather more like a man in his mid-seventies) and a young boy (though Nelson i

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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award; and the New York Times bestseller The Accursed. Her memoir The Lost Landscape was published by Ecco in September 2015. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

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