Friday, June 10, 2011

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

One of Flannery O'Connor's treasured friendships was with Louise Abbot, a housewife and aspiring writer who met O'Connor for the first time in the spring of 1957. Abbot, her lawyer-husband, and their small children lived in Louisville, Georgia, a small town just 60 miles outside of Milledgeville. O'Connor's and Abbot's friendship began when Abbot wrote a letter of introduction. Since she had already published a piece in Mademoiselle magazine, Abbot mulled over representing herself as a journalist in order to set up an initial meeting with the famous author. Fortunately, she decided not to follow through with this ruse and just be herself. Flannery wrote back that she would be delighted to meet Abbot, grateful that she did not pose as a journalist because, as Flannery confessed, she was "deathly afraid of the tribe." (The Habit of Being p. 205). And so on a wet Thursday afternoon in April, Louise Abbot drove up the long red clay driveway leading to Andalusia. Abbot was surprised to find Flannery standing on the porch dressed in blue jeans, an untucked plaid shirt, and loafers. Abbot was immediately struck by this down-home lack of pretension, not to mention O'Connor's "very expressive" blue eyes (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 291). Abbot also picked up on some tension between Flannery and her mother, but other than that, the two new friends enjoyed their time together chatting in the high-backed rocking chairs on the front porch. They talked about religion (Abbot came from a family of reformed Presbyterians and was surprised to learn O'Connor was Catholic), writing, and their common girlhoods in 1930s Savannah. As Abbot was getting ready to leave that day, Flannery invited her to "come back as often as you can." (Gooch, p. 292)

Louise Abbot is a lovely lady who still lives in Louisville, Georgia. She graciously allowed the young cinematographer, Rob Yates, to interview her earlier this spring. We are fortunate to have this fascinating footage on our website. To view the clip, follow this link
- Mark

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