Paris Review explores Flannery O’Connor the cartoonist

There’s a great piece at the Paris Review about Flannery O’Connor — a Savannah native and arguably the most important writer in Georgia history — and her years of cartooning.

Flannery O’Connor and the Habit of Art is excerpted from Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons, edited by Kelly Gerald, to be published in June by Fantagraphics.

The piece begins this way (emphasis added):

“For the writer of fiction,” Flannery O’Connor once said, “everything has its testing point in the eye, and the eye is an organ that eventually involves the whole personality, and as much of the world as can be got into it.” This way of seeing she described as part of the “habit of art,” a concept borrowed from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. She used the expression to explain the way of seeing that the artist must cultivate, one that does not separate meaning from experience.

The visual arts became one of her favorite touchstones for explaining this process. Many disciplines could help your writing, she said, but especially drawing: “Anything that helps you to see. Anything that makes you look.”

The piece succinctly deals with O’Connor’s cartoons, which she began drawing when she was 5 and which became staples of her college newspaper and yearbook at the Georgia State College for Women.

There are also 7 images in the Paris Review of her linoleum block cuts and their biting caricatures.

The connection to her writing is pretty, according to Gerald:

In O’Connor’s fiction, the urge for cartooning can be seen in the superficial sketches she created for certain characters, pegging them with one or two quirky physical features and allowing them to remain otherwise flat and peripheral.

The piece is well worth a read.