Jessica Hooten Wilson is the author of three books: Giving the Devil His Due: Flannery O’Connor and The Brothers Karamazov (which received a 2018 Christianity Today Book of the Year award), Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence; and Reading Walker Percy’s Novels. Currently, she is preparing Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, for publication. Here she discusses her particular love for these authors, and why literature is a powerful vehicle for instruction and evangelization, with Word on Fire Institute Assistant Director, Matt Nelson.
We’re going to talk a lot about books in this interview. To start, can you tell us about your experience of literature as a child and young adult? When did you first discover within yourself a passion for the Great Books?
I “wrote” my first story when I was three: my mother still has it in a Rubbermaid bin in their home. I dictated the work, and she faithfully recorded it. So, I cannot remember a time when I have not been in love with stories. I was an insatiable reader, and I still carry at least one or two books with me at all times (despite the hundreds available on my Kindle on my iPhone). I prefer hard copies, so Kindle is only in emergencies. I watch my seven-year-old daughter and see the same delight. She brings books with her in the car, a novel in her backpack to school or even to church.