Tony's Reviews > Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor

Flannery by Brad Gooch
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Mar 08, 09

bookshelves: biography
Read in March, 2009

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 very good one, is the amount of throw-away material that the author chose to include. If you can ignore the long passages that relate daily events in the author’s life to scenes in one or another short story – the work of a graduate student seeking a degree – the sections that cover O’Connor’s life and beliefs are well worth reading. O’Connor was typically described as a “Catholic writer from the Protestant South.” Her characters are usually misfits of one type or another, but reflect her serious contemplation of her faith. She developed Lupus at about age 29 – a repeat of her father’s illness that lead to his early death – and had diminished physical capacity up to the time of her death at age 39. She fancied birds, especially peacocks, and had her first public exposure in a Pathe newsreel clip when she was five years old. A photographer had come down to her farm to film her exploits in teaching a chicken to walk backwards. The clip only lasted for a few seconds, because the chicken was uncooperative, but she managed to snare the rest of her fifteen minutes of fame with her subsequent writings. Her writing was not necessarily understood by her readers. She was basically classed as a Southern Gothic writer. It was not until she met up with Robert Giroux and he became her editor and publisher that her writing met its match in understanding. She once said, “When I am asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it’s because we are still able to recognize one.” Recommended.
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