Torture may be considered a kind of perverse liturgy, for in torture the body of the victim is the ritual site where the state’s power is manifested in its most awesome form. Torture is liturgy — or, perhaps better said, “anti-liturgy” — because it involves bodies and bodily movements in an enacted drama which both makes real the power of the state and constitutes an act of worship of that mysterious power.
— William T. Cavanaugh in his inestimable book, Torture and Eucharist
. I never imagined that my research on the sacraments would lead me to such waters.
The boys in the classroom were right to be scared of her irony. O’Connor’s was not the shifty, reactive, and merely local variety that passes for irony today: sitcom irony, skinny-jeans irony. It was vertical and biblical: the irony by which the mighty are lowered, the humble exalted, and the savior dies on a cross. And she would shortly be required to submit to it herself, in full. Within three years of leaving Iowa, where she had prayed for desire of the Lord to claim her like a disease, she was diagnosed with lupus. Stricken, she returned to her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, her base of production for the novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and the short-story collections A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, the latter published posthumously. Health and sex and adventure had been taken from her, and in their place was a vision, her world, blast-lit and still reeling under the first shock of creation. “The air was so quiet,” she wrote in “The River,” “he could hear the broken pieces of the sun knocking in the water.” It was a gift. And we are left with a question: Without this terrible narrowing-down, would she have achieved the greatness she prayed for? This illness, this thing that confined her, that hauled her, crutches clanking, into a premature spinsterhood, and finally killed her at the age of 39, can we call it by the name of grace? Dare we?
We have this weird, romantic, fundamentally sensual idea of books, one that approaches fetishization in its own right. We experience them by touch, by smell – both the books and by extension the spaces that the books are in. And we experience books in terms of time. In a world that seems both temporal and violently atemporal, they are profoundly time-laden.