Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Bibliographic Work on O'Connor

Cambridge University Press has just published Volume 16 in the American Critical Archives Series, and the title is Flannery O'Connor: The Contemporary Reviews. The editors are R. Neil Scott from Middle Tennessee State University and Irwin H. Streigh from the Royal Military College of Canada. The title is a bit misleading, as the editors admit, because the reviews are not limited to those published only during O'Connor's lifetime. In their words, "Given the remarkable posthumous acclaim for O'Connor's art and thought, and the special honor accorded her in the seven years following her death in 1964, in selecting and editing reviews for this volume we have taken what we feel are legitimate liberties within the rubric of contemporary critical responses to American authors with which the series is concerned." And, it should be noted that O'Connor is in very good company in this series with writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Faulkner, Twain, T. S. Eliot, and Eudora Welty. This volume offers critical book reviews on O'Connor's published fiction and essays, including more than 400 reviews from more than 200 publications. With a total of 482 pages, including a strong introduction and a respectable index, this monograph will be a valuable addition to O'Connor scholarship.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Restoring the Milk-Processing Shed

A grant from the Milledgeville chapter of the Watson-Brown Junior Board made it possible for the Foundation to begin work last week on restoring the milk-processing shed at Andalusia. Funding for the project also came from gifts given in memory of Robert W. Mann (former Chair of the Board) and his sister-in-law, Catherine Florencourt Firth. The general contractor for the project is Allen Contruction Company of Milledgeville, the same firm that completed the restoration of the pump house in 2008. The milk-processing shed is located in front of the main cow barn a few hundred feet behind the main house. It is a one-story structure with two small interior rooms and is constructed of structural clay tile and covered with a wood-frame hipped roof and tin roofing. The north room is accessible by doors from the west and north and houses an existing pump along with cooling and storage equipment. The south room has a built-in "basin" constructed of concrete on the east wall. There is a small addition on the south side of the building with its own entrance, and this room houses an electric water heater. The old chimney above this addition is still in place, implying that the heat source at one time was wood or coal. As was the case with the restoration of the water tower and pump house, we hope to recreate the semblance of an operational farm for the purposes of education and historic preservation. Although these structures are no longer functional on the property, they are predominant pieces of the agricultural landscape at Andalusia and represent significant artifacts of twentieth-century farm life in central Georgia. They are also integral elements of the setting which provided inspiration for so many of Flannery O'Connor's stories. An interesting sidenote about the milk-processing shed: it was slightly modified during the summer of 1976 for the filming at Andalusia of O'Connor's short story, "The Displaced Person." Wood siding was placed over the tile of the shed to make it look like the tenant shack for the Polish immigrant family in the story. The siding was removed after filming was complete. The PBS production of "The Displaced Person" is now on DVD and available in the gift shop at Andalusia.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Wise Blood on DVD

The Criterion Collection has issued John Huston's Wise Blood on DVD, which was just released in May, 2009. The movie originally appeared in theaters in 1979 and stars Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes. This special edition DVD features interviews with Brad Dourif, writer Benedict Fitzgerald, and writer-producer Michael Fitzgerald. There is a 26-minute episode of the television program Creativity with Bill Moyers from 1982, featuring director John Huston discussing his life and work. But the real treasured addition to the DVD is a rare archival audio recording of Flannery O'Connor reading her short story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." This DVD is an absolute must-have for O'Connor fans and literary collectors. The cost of the DVD is $39.95. You can order your copy from the Andalusia gift shop at 478-454-4029.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Habit of Being -- Happy 30th!

I am always interested when visitors to Andalusia tell me that they enjoy reading O'Connor's letters in The Habit of Being even more than her fiction. Perhaps she would be horrified to know that some readers find her personal correspondence even more entertaining and/or meaningful than her novels and short stories. I am reminded of a wonderful line from one of our volunteers, a close friend of both Flannery and Regina O'Connor, who said "Flannery couldn't write a dull sentence if she had to." I agree with that assessment completely. Controversial and politically incorrect as they are, and perhaps insensitive to a degree, O'Connor's letters are still a fascinating treasure-trove of theological insight, literary commentary, and laugh-out-loud humor. I think the letters also demonstrate how O'Connor assumed various personae for different correspondents, which is most evidential in the letters to her closest friends, such as "A" (Betty Hester), Maryat Lee, Cecil Dawkins, and the Fitzgeralds. Reading the letters following a visit to Andalusia is a great way to extend the experience of immersing oneself in the setting that inspired one of the greatest writers in American literature. I highly recommend The Habit of Being, especially for 2009, the thirtieth anniversary of its publication.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Annual appeal from the Foundation

Each year the Foundation sends out an appeal letter to donors or potential donors for support of our efforts at Andalusia to restore and preserve this treasured landmark. While we completely understand that charitable giving may be the last thing on the minds of so many who have felt the pain of the current recession, we hope that you will keep the Foundation on your list of recipients for tax-deductible gifts this year. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, we depend on donations for our day-to-day operations, including keeping Andalusia open for visitors all year long. Please visit our website at www.andalusiafarm.org and click on "Donations" to become a Friend of Andalusia. Thank you.