A devotional journal from the author’s student days finds her grappling with issues of Christian spirituality that would soon inform her fiction.
The renowned Southern novelist plainly experienced a profound sense of displacement when she moved from her native Savannah to the University of Iowa. She began as a journalism major but switched to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, all the while trying to understand and deepen her faith amid “all sorts of intellectual quackery.” O’Connor began the journal (which is missing its first few pages) in 1946 and ended it abruptly a year and a half later. During that period, she also began writing what would be her first published fiction. Among the concerns she agonized over were commercialism, egoism and her insistence on her own mediocrity. Of her inspiration, she writes that God has “given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story.” The author asks for grace and to become a great writer—not for her own acclaim, but as a testament to her faith. Most of all, she asks to know God with an almost erotic ardor: “Dear Lord, please make me want You. It would be the greatest bliss. Not just to want You when I think about You but to want You all the time, to have the want driving in me, to have it like a cancer in me. It would kill me like a cancer and that would be the Fulfillment.” Yet just three days later, she ends the journal with a short entry that begins, “My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me.” It ends, “There is nothing left to say of me.”
There’s metaphysical mystery at the heart of this short journal, followed by a facsimile of her handwritten notebook, as well as the seeds of the spiritual life force that coursed through her fiction.