Flannery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ in Rare 1959 Audio

Flan­nery O’Con­nor was a South­ern writer who, as Joyce Car­ol Oates once said, had less in com­mon with Faulkn­er than with Kaf­ka and Kierkegaard. Iso­lat­ed by poor health and con­sumed by her fer­vent Catholic faith, O’Con­nor cre­at­ed works of moral fic­tion that, accord­ing to Oates, “were not refined New York­er sto­ries of the era in which noth­ing hap­pens except inside the char­ac­ters’ minds, but sto­ries in which some­thing hap­pens of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, often death by vio­lent means.”

In imag­in­ing those events of irre­versible mag­ni­tude, O’Con­nor could some­times seem outlandish–even cartoonish–but she strong­ly reject­ed the notion that her per­cep­tions of 20th cen­tu­ry life were dis­tort­ed. “Writ­ers who see by the light of their Chris­t­ian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the per­verse, and for the unac­cept­able,” O’Con­nor said. “To the hard of hear­ing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and star­tling fig­ures.”

In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ven­tured away from her seclud­ed fam­i­ly farm in Milledgeville, Geor­gia, to give a read­ing at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty. She read one of her most famous and unset­tling sto­ries, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, acces­si­ble above, is one of two known record­ings of the author read­ing that sto­ry. (The oth­er, from a 1957 appear­ance at Notre Dame Uni­ver­si­ty, can be heard here.) In her dis­tinc­tive Geor­gian drawl, O’Con­nor tells the sto­ry of a fate­ful fam­i­ly trip:

The grand­moth­er did­n’t want to go to Flori­da. She want­ed to vis­it some of her con­nec­tions in east Ten­nessee and she was seiz­ing at every chance to change Bai­ley’s mind. Bai­ley was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sit­ting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports sec­tion of the Jour­nal. “Now look here, Bai­ley,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the oth­er rat­tling the news­pa­per at his bald head. “Here this fel­low that calls him­self The Mis­fit is aloose from the Fed­er­al Pen and head­ed toward Flori­da and you read here what it says he did to these peo­ple. Just you read it. I would­n’t take my chil­dren in any direc­tion with a crim­i­nal like that aloose in it. I could­n’t answer to my con­science if I did.”

To con­tin­ue read­ing the full text while you lis­ten, open this page in a new win­dow. And after­ward, you can fol­low this link to a record­ing of O’Con­nor read­ing her 1960 essay, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion,” in which she writes: “I have found that any­thing that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the North­ern read­er, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called real­is­tic.”

You will find O’Con­nor’s read­ing of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” housed in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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Comments (32)
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  • Jim Groom says:

    Real­ly not that rare, you can find it on the Cri­te­ri­on DVD for John Hus­ton’s inter­pre­ta­tion of Wise Blood. Quite easy to rip and share :)

  • x says:


  • Brandon J. Brown says:

    Every that Ris­es, Must Con­verge!

  • chickfilaJim says:

    Nev­er heard her voice before, Cri­te­ri­on rip­ping or not. She sounds great. I love so many of her sto­ries.

  • Mary Hill says:

    Thanks for shar­ing this! I’ve always loved O’Con­nor and have nev­er heard her read. What a treat!

  • kenya says:

    This is a good sto­ry! Love her accent!

  • Michael begley says:

    Very good sto­ry and love the audio accent.

  • Extollager says:


  • eve says:

    i fell in love with this book, and i think that she is a mar­val­ous writer and i enjoy read­ing her books in the future…

  • lorrinajacks says:

    i hat­ed this book i mean who would read a crap­py book like this, i would­nt rec­om­mend this to any one!!!! whos with me…

  • Deb Dennis says:

    Love love love Flan­nery’s work!

  • RT Spears says:

    Def­i­nite­ly a favorite, and loved hear­ing her read it. Wait- what, she has an accent?!? Com­pared to WHAT, exact­ly? :)

  • Dennis Cass says:

    The dead­pan deliv­ery com­pli­ments the dead­pan humor. I’ve won­dered if this sto­ry might have been an influ­ence on (of all things) “Nation­al Lam­poon’s Vaca­tion”.

  • David Lloyd says:

    Quite a dis­turb­ing sto­ry but I’m start­ing to become fas­ci­nat­ed by the Old South. Being an Aus­tralian and not hav­ing lis­tened to many who have this lady’s south­ern drawl, I am glad I read the sto­ry before I lis­tened to her read it her­self.

  • Bill W. says:

    My grand­moth­er grew up with O’Con­nor in Geor­gia. She used to tell me about how she taught her chick­ens to walk back­wards, etc. This is the first time I’ve heard Flan­nery’s voice. Her accent was iden­ti­cal to my grand­moth­ers. Her telling her sto­ry floods my mind with pleas­ant mem­o­ries.

  • Joe W. says:

    I am total­ly amazed and total­ly grate­ful to be able to hear Flan­nery O’Con­nor’s voice for the first time in my life!

    When I met my wife in 1982 one of the things that cement­ed our rela­tion­ship was our love for the same authors. Flan­nery O’Con­nor & John Irv­ing topped our lists.

    We nev­er had a son but if you’re lucky some­day you might meet our 22 year old daugh­ter, Flan­nery Kate! It turns out my Flan­nery is almost as spe­cial as her name­sake.

  • Cristy Binder says:

    I have always loved her ever since I dis­cov­ered her work while I was in col­lege. She def­i­nite­ly knew how to craft dark­ness-she did it bril­liant­ly!

  • Julie says:

    I’ve been want­i­ng to hear her accent! Thank you! But I think it’s a lit­tle mis­lead­ing to refer to her “ven­tur­ing away from her seclud­ed fam­i­ly farm in Milledgeville,” as if she were an inno­cent, shel­tered girl. She trav­elled wide­ly dur­ing her life, and was both small-town and world­ly. :-)

  • SB says:

    Oh, I see what you’re doing there, Lor­ri­na! Smart! I think every­body miss­es that you are mak­ing your­self one of O’Con­nor’s stu­pid back­woods une­d­u­cat­ed char­ac­ters! Wow, what satire!

  • Marge says:

    Inter­est­ing! I won­dered what her voice was like. I don’t have that much of a South­ern accent; I grew up in Flori­da.

  • SB says:

    South Flori­da most like­ly then, Marge, where every­body sounds like a Yan­kee. We ‘Old Florid­i­ans’ still have the Old South dialects.

  • baby bash says:


  • Ginger says:

    What a gift to be able to hear Flan­nery O’Con­nor’s voice. I’m shocked that she sounds so young and so sweet. What a remark­able per­son she was.

  • Lance Foss says:

    The ten minute audio record­ing of author Flan­nery O’Connor read­ing “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is incom­plete. The read­ing cov­ers about 20% of the sto­ry I fig­ure. Why? Why are we led to an incom­plete audio record­ing?

  • Lance Foss says:

    I read the entire sto­ry text here: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/goodman.html Awful sto­ry, but reveal­ing 1953 Geor­gia, US.

  • Margaret Kiernan says:

    Deli­cious wet day Sat­ur­day lis­ten­ing. Thank you.

  • Nicolas Martin says:

    Does this site exist for any oth­er rea­son except to prof­it as a “parn­ter” with Audi­ble?

  • Iyaaprili Moyenda says:

    I love your sto­ries.👣

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