Communication and Community

Unless the novelist has gone utterly out of his mind, his aim is still communication, and communication suggests talking inside a community.


The isolated imagination is easily corrupted by theory, but the writer inside his community seldom has such a problem.

Mystery and Manners pp. 53 and 54

Community: an aid to communication to a greater audience and an aid to sort out the voices in one’s head; a steadying influence to what goes out and to what’s inside. 

What is the isolated imagination? I’m not sure what O’Connor had in mind, but in my mind an isolated imagination is one that cuts itself off from the wisdom of others—except that one other, that theory born in his own mind, untested in the waters of community, which begins to chart the course of thought and creativity. It demands a certain way. It clamors for attention. It distracts the face from other options. It builds itself up into the course of action. 

And that which is not chiseled or honed or polished by community is an ugly thing, a half-carved reality, beastly in its incompleteness, however noble and beautiful the goal may have been. Community is necessary to smooth out all that corruption. And if not affected by the community, then the artist is out of his mind precisely because he is only in his mind. No input, no contemplation of the goal of writing: the other. And so communication is truncated, corrupted, garbled, and unfruitful. 

Community helps us to get out of our head and think of others, think of the one we want to touch. Community is necessary to form that connection. It’s necessary to create better community. 

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