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Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
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Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  950 ratings  ·  197 reviews
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 Lo ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published February 25th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2009)
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Hannah  Messler
Jeez Louise. I know this book got hell of praise from like the Times and whatever, but man. This is why I never really read biographies, biographies like this. I guess I just feel like a biographer should really really really love whomever s/he's writing about and that should be the whole (or at least the biggest) motivation--that's why Blake Bailey is so good, because even though he's writing about these scurrilous, self-deceiving, agonized men, he is so totally in love with them that you are a ...more
Dec 13, 2011 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in Flannery O'Connor and Southern Literature
Recommended to Mike by: Janet Maslin's Review from the New York Times
Do a quick Google search for Flannery O'Connor and the result is an astounding 4,590,000 in .21 seconds. Yet the majority of what is written about Flannery O'Connor concerns the literary criticism of her work, not her biography. And, if you take Ms. O'Connor at face value, there's not a lot to say. Brad Gooch, author of "Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, published in 2009, chose the O'Connor's own words as the book's epigraph: "As for biographies, there won't be any biographies of me becaus ...more
Book Riot Community
O’ Connor is a personal favorite, and this biography captures a great deal of what was both endearing and tragic about a woman who produced some of the most enduring and transformative fiction to emerge from the United States before her death from lupus at age 39. Gooch gives Flannery’s wit, faith, and guarded nature plenty of ink, and in doing so captures what continues to draw so many to her work. And the work – deservedly – remains central throughout. Her stories remained her focus even until ...more
While I am not an avid fan of Flannery O’Connor’s work, I do recognize that she was one of the best American writers of short fiction. This book is the story of a gifted and complicated woman who was determined to persevere despite her differences and her disability, which cut her life short.

The book begins with the image of a five year old Flannery and her chickens being filmed by Pathe Newsreel Company. Why film this? Because how many little girls do you know who could teach chickens to walk
I write only about two hours every day because that's all the energy I have, but I don't let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place...something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don't sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won't be sitting there.

This piecing together of snippets from Flannery O'Connor's writing life was my favorite takeaway from the biography. The entire narrative reads like a smorgasb
I'm never certain how to judge biographies, especially when--as is the case with this one--there's not much to compare it to (unlike, say, bios of Sylvia Plath, when there are about four trillion, and most of them are awful). Nevertheless, I think I can safely five-star this one. 'Flannery' has a bit of a slow start, and you think for a moment that perhaps Ms. O'Connor was right--that her personal history wasn't worthy of a biography. But more likely, Gooch simply didn't have a lot of material t ...more
May 20, 2009 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All those who love Flannery O'Connor.
Recommended to Mike by: NY Times Book Review
Brad Gooch has written a totally engaging biopic on one of the 20th Century's greatest writers. Flannery herself thought her life too dull to ever have any biographies written about it, but Professor Gooch rewards us with a story both tragic and beautiful.

That Flannery died at age 39 from lupus is one of the greater tragedies in literary history. Much like the talk about Mozart, the mind shudders at the thought of all the work she might have produced had she been allowed to live. Nevertheless,
Bookmarks Magazine

The gifted O'Connor once stated that she would merit no biography because "lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy." Brad Gooch, however, has done a thorough job teasing out the details of O'Connor's short life and enduring legacy. Although gracious and polite, Gooch was nonetheless admonished by critics for skimming over some of the more eyebrow-raising aspects of her life, such as the question of her sexuality and her contentious relationship with her mothe

Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2013-reads
Not a cultural biography in that Gooch never broadened his focus to describe the context of O'Connor's times and milieu (except in the cursory paragraphs about Catholic theology, the Deep South, and race-relations), and little or no discussion of O'Connor's writing (except for the inspirations for stories/novels and work habits). As such it was a fast read of names, dates, and places, leaving me helplessly armed with new trivia about O'Connor's friendships, her difficult mother, her devotion to ...more
M. Sarki
Aug 06, 2013 M. Sarki rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: really nobody

It is not hard to imagine there being countless more people than I who are complete opposites of Mary Flannery O'Connor. To think she was such a serious Catholic who almost never missed a 7AM mass unless she was sick enough to be in hospital or on her death bed. To imagine she never ever had sex with anyone, and the only time she ever came close was in the awful tooth kiss she had with an early male suitor. At least if we believe the writings of her biogra
Probably as good a biography of Flannery O'Connor as we're ever going to get, but very little in the way of deep insights -- which is not to fault Brad Gooch; O'Connor was a very private person and Gooch has covered the ground as well as anyone ever will. In a perfect world, Gooch would annotate a new edition of Sally Fitzgerald's book of O'Connor's correspondence, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, which would become essentially the only thing you would need to read on O'Connor b ...more
Peggy Hilliard
Probably the finest biography I've read of anyone. This book is a must for O'Connor fans.
James Murphy
I didn't think it was possible. I didn't think reading about Flannery O'Connor could drag. But I have to admit this is pretty dry biography. The primary reasons, I suppose, are what you'd expect: that her life was limited and shortened by the debilitating lupus that killed her and that she lived her truncated life in quiet Catholic devotion. In her mid-20s when diagnosed with lupus, she returned from New York to live out her remaining years on the farm north of Milledgeville, GA managed by her m ...more
Gooch, Brad. FLANNERY: A Life of Flannery O’Connor. (2009). ****. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, and I have often re-read her two novels and many short stories with pleasure. I was also pleased that “The Library of America” came out with her collected works recently, which gave me a chance to read my favorite pieces. This biography is certainly well researched, and the author clearly admires and respects O’Connor’s works. What keeps this from being a great biography, rather than just a ...more
May 30, 2009 El rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Janice
What I love most about Flannery O'Connor is that she rarely agreed with anything anyone ever said about her or her writing, whether positive or negative comments. While reading this first formal exclusive look at O'Connor's life and work I thought about that, and how she would probably hate everything Brad Gooch wrote about her. That does not necessarily make Gooch a bad biographer, nor does it make this a bad biography; but it did help me take a lot of what was written with a grain of salt.

Brad Gooch chronicles the writer at home, and at home. Flannery O'Connor, ill with Lupus, was oft confined to her home, a spread in Georgia called Andalusia. When she goes north it's an interesting and touching journey, one that naturally extended from her writing output (Iowa Workshop, the Yaddo retreat, here home of many an artsy person's breakdowns and/or crisis in communism-- O'Connor's friendship w/ poet Robert Lowell stays strong through all this). At a dinner table w/ NY intellectuals sh ...more
I liked this new biography of Flannery O'Connor. I fell in love with her stories when I was taking a Southern Lit class in college, and I've always been intrigued with her.

The book goes into great detail about her life (more than I like to read -- I don't need a blow-by-blow of every class she took at college, etc.). Some people might like to know these kinds of things, but this is one of the issues I always have when I read biographies, too much information.

This book draws on correspondence wi
Charles Matthews
Postwar American fiction in the 1940s, '50s and '60s was dominated by men, and particularly by Jewish men: Bellow, Malamud, Mailer, Heller, Roth. But Brad Gooch's new biography serves as a reminder that one of the most original and enduring of that era's writers was a Catholic woman.

Reading Flannery O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood, Caroline Gordon discovered “a Catholic novelist with a real dramatic sense, one who relies more on her technique than her piety.” Other critics of O'Connor's debut
In the words of the eternally inarticulate (although you TOTALLY know what he means) Randy Jackson this was just "alright" for me. It was "pitchy in parts."

Ok...enough with the Randy metaphor. I expected a LOT from this book and in some ways it delivered. Actually, to continue with the music/TV metaphor for one more moment (which I'm sure would be horrifying to both Flannery O'Connor AND Brad Gooch--sorry...) it's kind of like "Behind the Music." I always like the part BEFORE they get famous mor
i often make the mistake of thinking that just because i love an author's writing i'd love to read about them. a biography is not an easy thing to write when a weighty tome of the author's own letters exists and sadly i don't think gooch did much more than consolidate those with some biographical facts. i don't feel any closer to flannery, nor did any of her searing wit that i so admire come through this book.

okay, i'll also admit that much of my dislike is attributed to the series of disasters
May 07, 2009 Libby rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Flannery O'Connor
Recommended to Libby by: My love for Flannery O'Connor
I've been a fan of Flannery O'Connor since college, which is over 30 years ago. A few years ago I read a biography by Jean Cash, which I also enjoyed. The new one is more comprehensive than the Cash one, but each has some details the other doesn't. Both books showed how rich a life she lead, how many writer friends she had, and "Flannery" especially showed how writers such as Caroline Gordon helped by giving feedback to rough drafts of her stories.
Jeff Crompton
A lively biography of a brilliant writer who had a rich inner life, but whose exterior life was not very interesting on an obvious level. Gooch focuses on O'Connor's relationships, which gave her so much intellectual stimulation. Many of the letters in The Habit of Being make much more sense after reading this book. Highly recommended for O'Connor fans.
This is a nicely written book full of great details. You will be wowed by O'Connor's extensive correspondence with numerous friends, the introduction to a literary milieu that is probably lost forever, her lifelong love for animals, her tender acceptence of a non-conventional life path, her deep life-long commitment to the Church and to wrestling with its theology.

However, the focus on O'Connor is so narrow that there seems to be something missing. Although some of her stories reference topical
Holly Taggart
This is a good biography of Flannery O'Connor. I can't really say if it reflects her life or not, as I have not read another, but given the amount of research t appears the author put into it, I suspect it is accurate. it is readable, and interesting, even for someone like myself who is quite unfamiliar with her work. I know the titles, but I am unsure I have read her stories. Fear not, I received a complete anthology as well as the biography for Christmas.....

There were some interesting insight
I've never read anything Flannery O'Connor has written, and to be honest, I had only even vaguely heard of her. I couldn't have named a single one of her works. I picked up this biography simply on the strength of the review in The New York Times, and I am a huge fan now -- at least of Flannery the person. And I plan to pick up some of her work next!

I think the fact that I could make it through an entire book about someone of whom I had practically no foreknowledge pretty much speaks for itself,
This biography is indispensable for any follower of Flannery O'Connor's work. I first fell in love with O'Connor in a survey for American Literature that I took my junior year of college. We had read "Good Country People" and I immediately fell in love with O'Connor's wry sense of humor and comically grotesque characters. From there I read all of her short stories and novels. She has since gained a special place in my heart. This biography by Brad Gooch is a "revelation". He expertly reveals the ...more
There was actually a biography of O'Connor by Jean Cash that was published by UTenn Press about four years back. Reading Gooch's book brought back a lot of memories...her covered pretty much the same territory that she did and followed the same paths. Whenever you have a reclusive author like that, it's hard to dig up "new" material. I also noticed that Gooch relied a lot on the recollections of people who are elderly and who may have already absorbed a good amount of press about O'Connor. I'm n ...more
Sara Pauff
If you've read any of Flannery O'Connor's short stories and are interested in her life, this is a pretty good biography. It reads more like novel than a bio. Gooch also does a good job of showing how Flannery's life inspired her literature (though she despised reading into books and stories in this way). The sections detailing Flannery's interest in Catholic theology and various theological writings can get a little dense, especially if you are not familiar with them -- I'm Catholic and I still ...more
Stephanie Ricker
Years ago, one of my favorite English professors had a classful of us over for dinner to meet two of her friends (also English professors) and to discuss Southern American literature. Seeing three old friends talk with one another was beautiful, and their conversation held all of us completely in thrall. These three women were brilliant in their respective fields, utterly hilarious, and had tremendous strength of friendship. We talked about many authors, but the one that really sticks out in my ...more
George Bradford
This is a VERY GOOD book. But it could have been better.

If you're a student of Flannery O'Connor (like me), this is an essential text. Here, for the first time, is a serious biography that tells the story of her life and work in a comprehensive narrative. For this, I am grateful to author Brad Gooch. Thank you, Sir.

But there are (minor) factual inaccuracies most O'Connor students will instantly catch. And several relationships and events in Flannery O'Connor's life merit a fuller investigation
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Brad Gooch is the author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor (Little, Brown, 2009.) His previous books include City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara; as well as Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America; three novels--Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, Zombie00; a collection of stories, Jailbait and Other Stories, chosen by Donald Barthelme for a Pushcart Foundation Writer’s Cho ...more
More about Brad Gooch...
City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara Finding the Boyfriend Within: A Practical Guide for Tapping into your own Scource of Love, Happiness, and Respect Scary Kisses Zombie00 The Golden Age of Promiscuity

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