(Homage to Miss Mary Flannery O'Connor)
Her plots were engineered by God. So naturally she wrote like
hell, free as shy Glenn Gould was, playing Bach, a virtuoso we might
dislike were it not for the music. To play so well you have to be a
little peculiar, cut the romantics, those free spirits, hum along with
your recordings proudly, mark your territory.
Just hear the notes in the arpeggio, how they're spreading out,
more and more, until it's impossible, like a peacock's
embarrassing feathers, a pianist's spread fingers across the
octaves, a hand on your leg. The body sways upon the piano stool instead
of dancing, the artist absurdly silting, pushing down keys as a writer
will press the letters on a typewriter, trying to express, express,
We hear Glenn Gould humming, moaning in his love of Bach, hear how the
grandmother tries to connive and wheedle her way into living. She is
unashamed of her false notes, our heroine even if it doesn't sit
That story runs smoothly at first, clipping along like a Bach invention,
like the miniature scene in a well-made cuckoo clock. Wouldn't you
like to come be my little girl? asks the poor waitress. Of course, the
rude girl snaps right back, hard as a shot rubber band. The grandmother
hisses. She is not common, and enjoys, like a connoisseur, the blue of
Stone Mountain with its cut, confederate silhouettes. That little black
boy outside the car window would make "such a picture, now!"
But then the car falls right off the road into a gully. Those kids
we'd think would be too mean to kill get shot. The misfit comes
back in the shirt with parrots on it Her son just had that on. That
yellow must hurt; the birds must wheel in her eyes. You could be one of
my own children.
The cartoon has stopped and turned bloody. But if you think about it
this is what they all wanted. And look at the piano, curvy and fat as an
odalisque, the huge body with its heartstrings held up by just three
legs, like something beautiful and marred, thick-ankled and mahogany.
And so we get the angry, educated girl who knows she is ugly in
others' eyes, and who doesn't love the Bible salesman but he
still takes advantage of her. The piano sits there so brazenly with its
bare, bowed legs and Manley Pointer runs off with Hulga's wooden
leg instead of her virginity.
Who could call this grace? But Miss O'Connor has left us at the
scene of the accident with just the Misfit to ask. She is in her garden,
swollen and ill, feeding her peacocks who preen and always get their
trains stuck underneath cars. What's real is always close to