Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
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The landscape of American literature was fundamentally changed when Flannery O'Connor stepped onto the scene with her first published book, Wise Blood, in 1952. Her fierce, sometimes comic novels and stories reflected the darkly funny, vibrant, and theologically sophisticated woman who wrote them. Brad Gooch brings to life O'Connor's significant friendships--with Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Walker Percy, and James Dickey among others--and her deeply felt convictions, as expressed in her communications with Thomas Merton, Elizabeth Bishop, and Betty Hester. Hester was famously known as "A" in O'Connor's collected letters, The Habit of Being, and a large cache of correspondence to her from O'Connor was made available to scholars, including Brad Gooch, in 2006. O'Connor's capacity to live fully--despite the chronic disease that eventually confined her to her mother's farm in Georgia--is illuminated in this engaging and authoritative biography.
Persse and other Savannah childhood friends and acquaintances: Jane Harty Abbott, Alice Carr, Angela Dowling, Dan O’Leary, Newell Turner Parr, and Sister Jude Walsh. For historical background, I was given many materials by the Georgia Historical Society, and by Mark MacDonald at the Historic Savannah Foundation. I am grateful to Dale and Lila Critz, the current owners of Katie Semmes’s home, for allowing me to visit; and for their hospitality, to Bobby Zarem, John and Ginger Duncan, Robert E.
Letters,” North American Review 225, no. 1 (Spring 1970): 59. 110 “I thought then”: Bee McCormack, e-mail to the author, March 3, 2005. 110 “I like cartoons”: FOC to Janet McKane, August 27, 1963, CW, 1191. 110 “You can go jump”: Robert Fitzgerald, “Introduction,” Everything That Rises Must Converge (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965), xii. 110 “wonderful, merry cartoons”: Margaret Inman Meaders, “Flannery O’Connor: ‘Literary Witch,’” Colorado Quarterly 10, no. 4 (Spring 1962): 377.
for stealing pecans, Winston, after Winston Churchill. Her pet rooster, another of her models in Art class, was Haile Selassie, for the emperor of Ethiopia, reinstated in 1941 after being routed by the armies of Benito Mussolini. Most controversial was her second rooster, Adolph, the pen mate of Haile, as Adolf Hitler, the führer of Germany, had just declared war on the United States in December 1941. She changed its name only after neighbors were disturbed by calls of “Here, Adolph!” issuing
and we wore khaki-colored cotton gabardine raincoats most of the time,” explains Virginia Wood Alexander. “This is the way I remember Flannery. She would come ‘slouching’ along like the rest of us.” A rare campus event that O’Connor truly enjoyed was the Golden Slipper, an annual drama contest between the freshmen and sophomore classes, with a small golden slipper as the award. “I remember her being behind some of the brilliant backdrops and scenery in this competition,” says her classmate
energetic curator, James J. Rorimer, excelling at public relations. Shortly after, as Flannery returned from Georgia, the New York Times ran a double-column photograph of a thirteenth-century sculpture of the Virgin from a choir screen of the Cathedral of Strasbourg as “An Easter Attraction at the Cloisters”; in a New Yorker “Talk of the Town” piece, James Rorimer, “a pipe smoker, in the best detective and curatorial tradition,” escorted a reporter through the popular Nine Heroes Tapestries