Gooch lays out the evidence from O'Connor's letters and essays for her belief that [deeply troubled novel protagonists] Motes and Tarwater were truly touched by God, but he also cites the opinion of the novelist John Hawkes, a friend and correspondent of O'Connor's, "that hers was a 'black,' even 'diabolical,' authorial voice." O'Connor assured Hawkes it wasn't so, but, dubious as it may be to question the word of a virtual saint, the books appear lit by a fire from below that bespeaks not the terrible speed of mercy but the terrible slowness with which the tormented soul is consumed. O'Connor died at 39. To judge from her fiction, she had likely had all she could take.
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