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Book Salon
The Book of Hulga

  • This month we're reading The Book of Hulga by Rita Mae Reese. Our faculty host is John W. Evans.

    Listen to an interview with our Book Salon host.

    "The Book of Hulga is a powerful meditation on the nature of imagination and identity, and the forms that grace can take in a life. Taking as its central figure the protagonist from Flannery O'Connor's short story, "Good Country People," Reese interconnects a rich web of topics, including suffering, absence, the self and Catholicism. Formal inventiveness and deeply felt lyricism are the hallmarks of this beautiful collection, which is a joy to discover and revisit."

    John W. Evans, Jones Lecturer of Creative Writing

About this quarter's book selection

Rita Mae Reese’s The Book of Hulga is a love letter to the great Southern short story author Flannery O’ Connor. Named after the titular character in O’Connor’s short story Good Country People, The Book of Hulga explores the southern faith that was so integral to O’Connor’s work.

Described as “part fan fiction, part hagiography, part graphic poetry”, Reese’s novel uses poetry to further expound on a central theme of nothingness, while also exploring the hope of transcendence and life. Her poems also explore suffering and loss, while examining the role faith plays into times of sadness and grief. Hulga stands at the centerpiece of the poems, illuminating O’Connor’s vision of “an angular intellectual proud woman approaching God inch by inch grinding her teeth.”

The Book of Hulga was awarded the Felix Pollak Prize in 2016. Rita Mae Reese drew inspiration from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edgar Allan Poe and Simone Weil to craft a character that Flannery O’Connor originally envisioned. Vivid illustrations by Julie Franki further illuminate and add to the experience of Reese’s verses.  

The Stanford Book Salon [Seriously Unstuffy]