A Good Autodidact Is Hard to Find


For the Atlantic‘s “By Heart,” “a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature,” Jim Shepard discusses Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, and the painfully fleeting nature of epiphany:

This kind of conversion notion is based on a very comforting idea—that if only we had sufficient information, we wouldn’t act badly. And that’s one of the great things about what The Misfit tells the Grandmother in the line I like so much. He’s not saying that a near-death experience would have turned her into a good woman. He’s saying it would take somebody threatening to shoot her every minute of her life.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →