A Prayer Journal

by flannery o’connor
farrar, straus and giroux, 112 pages, $18

If we could accurately map heaven,” Flannery O’Connor wrote in her newly published A Prayer Journal, “some of our up-&-coming [social] scientists would begin drawing blueprints for its improvement, and the bourgeois would sell guides 10¢ the copy to all over 65. But I do not mean to be clever although I do mean to be clever on 2nd thought and like to be clever & want to be considered so. But the point more specifically here is … I don’t want to believe in hell but in heaven.”

O’Connor was only twenty-one when she recorded this humorous but candid confession. A year earlier, she had left her home in Milledgeville, Georgia, to attend Paul Engle’s famous Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. There she was quickly to emerge as the finest student in the program. This journal, ably introduced by her friend and biographer, William ­Sessions, was kept spasmodically for twenty months during her time there, in 1946 and 1947.

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