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Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,135 Ratings  ·  212 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
Feb 14, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it liked it
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
Lawyer
Dec 13, 2011 Lawyer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in Flannery O'Connor and Southern Literature
Recommended to Lawyer 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
Carol
Jun 02, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
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
...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
Jamie
Jan 14, 2010 Jamie rated it it was amazing
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
Cheryl
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
...more
M. Sarki
Aug 06, 2013 M. Sarki rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: really nobody
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/5757167...

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
...more
Mike
May 20, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it
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,
...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Apr 15, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it liked it
Shelves: may-june-2009

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

...more
Peggy Hilliard
Jun 17, 2009 Peggy Hilliard rated it it was amazing
Probably the finest biography I've read of anyone. This book is a must for O'Connor fans.
Holly
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
Kurt
Feb 27, 2009 Kurt rated it liked it
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
Estelle
Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern Writer and lifelong devout Roman Catholic, both of which characteristics were food for her body of work - two novels and many short stories.

Flannery's creativity emerged early and was recognized at both graduate school at the Iowa Writer's Workshop at University of Iowa and at Yaddo, a writer's retreat in upstate NY. During this period she wrote what was to become her first novel, Wise Blood. Once she was established as a writer with a body of publis
...more
James Murphy
Mar 26, 2010 James Murphy rated it liked it
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
Tony
Mar 08, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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
El
May 30, 2009 El rated it liked it
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.

Gooc
...more
Danny
Aug 20, 2013 Danny rated it really liked it
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
Charles Matthews
Dec 06, 2009 Charles Matthews rated it really liked it
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
...more
Miriam
Apr 30, 2009 Miriam rated it liked it
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
...more
John
Jul 09, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gooch fills his biography with a great deal of biographical detail, chronicling events, illnesses, friendships, and reading regimens with admirable care. And in its own way, this gives insight into some of the stories, none more poignant than the biographical details around the composition of her story, "Good Country People." O'Connor's wry sense of humor shines through regularly, as does her passion for theology and philosophy in addition to that of fiction.

What I most missed, however, was a mo
...more
nicole
Apr 11, 2010 nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
...more
Jessica
May 04, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
This book is very well-researched, but it's lacking a spark. I don't think Brad Gooch gets close enough to his subject. While he should not have made the book entirely about O'Connor's illness - which was, in fact, a serious, ongoing, daily struggle for her - it comes off as a mere side-note (until the end of the book, of course). He also makes superficial comments about some (apparently) important relationships in O'Connor's life, which he could have analyzed better -- i.e. O'Connor's mother, h ...more
Colleen Wu
May 25, 2010 Colleen Wu rated it it was ok
I think I agree with Flannery O'Connor in that her life was not interesting enough for a biography. Not much of interest about the life of O'Connor, but lots of literary criticism of her works, which is not what I was looking for. The writing also did not seem to flow well and I sometimes found it hard to concentrate on. I don't think that I would recommend this book to anyone except hardcore O'Connor fans who feel the need to read up on everything about her.
Libby
May 07, 2009 Libby rated it really liked it
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.
Jay Shelat
Jul 06, 2015 Jay Shelat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read biographies-- or non-fiction in general-- very often. But I am grateful to have read Flannery: A Life.

Brad Gooch's biography exudes intelligence, sympathy, and courage. Writing a book is no easy feat, but a biography is a new class of difficulty. Yet, somehow Gooch's representation of O'Connor's life is done with such grace and comfort that I found myself astounded. The most engaging and eye-opening portions of the biography are those where Gooch flawlessly describes the horrible d
...more
matt
Sep 08, 2009 matt rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of MFOC from way back and this book really elegantly and smoothly gave the what on the who that was Ms O'Connor...

he has a light touch, which is quite a grace, and is smoothly readable and very informative. She is a notoriously tricky writer and so getting his take on her spirituality, race relations, work ethic, irony and wickedly cracked and wise personality was a joy.

Very much what you want a biography to be
Melinda
It is no secret that I don't care much for Flannery O'Connor's writings. Of her writings I prefer her letters, then her short stories, then lastly her novels. However, having read her letters, I am convinced that if I had met Flannery, I would have liked her. So there is a strange "I'm interested in the woman" but "I don't like the books" dilemma.

This is a very good biography of Flannery, and made me interested in some things that no one ever seems to really look at. The relationship between Fl
...more
Jeff Crompton
Mar 17, 2011 Jeff Crompton rated it it was amazing
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.
Olivia
Sep 02, 2010 Olivia rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Brad Gooch does a fabulous job telling the story of Flannery O'Connor. I look forward to seeing more from him.

This book is full of life and color, an intimate portrait of a gifted and fascinating author.
Michael
Jul 20, 2014 Michael rated it liked it
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
...more
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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
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“Her most unusual assignation was a quick visit with Fred Darsey, a young man recently escaped from Milledgeville State Hospital, where he was committed by his parents during a troubled adolescence. Darsey first caught her interest with a blind letter, in March, from the mental institution, revealing his passion for bird-watching. She was startled when her reply was returned and the envelope marked “eloped.” She sympathized, when Darsey wrote her again from New York City, “When you have a friend there you feel as if you are there yourself, so you see I feel as if I have escaped too.” Carver helped arrange the date, which Flannery kept secret from Regina, in Bryant Park, at the rear of the New York Public Library, with the pen pal she had never met. “I just love to sit and look at the people in New York, or anywhere,” she told him, “even in Milledgeville.” Flannery wound up her trip north spending the” 0 likes
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