Friday, August 26, 2011


According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Baltimore home where author Edgar Allan Poe lived from 1833 to 1835 is in peril. The house museum sits in the middle of a housing project far off the usual tourist path. Due to budget cuts, the city last year completely eliminated financial support. Since then, the Poe house has been operating on reserve funds which are projected to dry up by early next summer. The city of Baltimore has hired consultants to help the Poe house come up with a business plan to make the museum financially self-sufficient. Ideas on the table include updating exhibits to attract more visitors (the Poe house and museum currently gets about 5,000 visitors per year). What does all this have to do with Flannery O'Connor and Andalusia? A lot! For one thing, Edgar Allan Poe was such a huge influence on O'Connor. It is truly heartbreaking to contemplate the possible closure of his home. God forbid that we might face a similar dilemma at Andalusia. And yet, one cannot help but be concerned because of the similarities between the two writers' residences. Like Poe's home, Andalusia sits well off the beaten track, perhaps even more so, and we get about the same number of visitors per year as they do. Fortunately, we are not reliant upon government funding to stay afloat and have so far managed to weather the tough economic downturn of the last three years through the generosity of our Friends.

It is imperative, however, that we expand this base of support if we are to remain viable in the future. Unlike Poe's home in Baltimore (or that of practically any other author you can think of ), Andalusia presents us with a unique set of challenges. Not only do we have the main house where the author lived to preserve, but all the other structures that sit on this 544 acre tract as well, some of which will collapse if more funding cannot be procured to restore them. And it is vital that we do so because Andalusia is a very special place. Not only was it where Flannery O'Connor lived and wrote, but it was the very source of her inspiration. This farm and daily life out hereso fueled O'Connor's imagination that it is impossible to read a great number of her stories and not picture Andalusia. Your continued financial support of our work is vital if we are to preserve this major literary landmark for future generations.
- Mark

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hot off the Press!

Good news for our visitors who have been asking when the latest issue of the Flannery O'Connor Review is coming out. It's here! Yesterday afternoon, editor Bruce Gentry brought over ten new copies of this, the longest-running journal dedicated exclusively to the work of a female writer. This attractive and lavishly illustrated magazine features articles on O'Connor's ecological vision, an interview with Milledgeville native and big-time author, Pete Dexter, as well as an essay by William Walsh on Wise Blood, the novel and its film adaptation by John Huston. The photographs accompanying this essay of the filming of Wise Blood are worth the price of the Review. There are also book reviews by noted O'Connor scholars Margaret Earley Whitt, Gary Ciuba, Robert Donahoo, Avis Hewitt, and the indefatigable Bruce Gentry. As suggested above, supplies are limited, so if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the 2011 Flannery O'Connor Review, please visit our gift shop or call us at 478-454-4029.
- Mark

Friday, August 12, 2011

Falling Feathers

It's that time of year when our peafowl are molting. This morning I filled a wheelbarrow with feathers, mostly from the male, Manley Pointer. He looks pretty scraggly right now with his remaining feathers jutting out from his body at odd angles. On Wednesday while I was at the dentist's office, I happened to pick up a National Geographic (Feb. 2011) that featured a story on birds and their plumage. Accompanying this story was a picture of a peacock in full feather. The caption said that the peacock was the one bird that confounded British naturalist, Charles Darwin (pictured at right). He couldn't understand for the life of him how the bird evolved the way it did. What could possibly be the purpose of something so impractical as the long train of feathers on the male of the species? Darwin could see no utilitarian purpose. In fact, they are less than useless in that they inhibit quick flight from predators. If Darwin's theory of natural selection is true, the peacock's showy feathers should have disappeared eons ago or else the species would have disappeared. Perhaps unwilling to consider the possibility that the Creator made the species simply out of sheer delight in its beauty, Darwin appeased his curiosity with the rather pedestrian conclusion that the male has kept his plumage over time as a way of propagating the species. From my personal observation of our birds at Andalusia, I think Darwin is pushing it a little bit. Many times have I seen Manly with his shimmering feathers fanned the width of the aviary and the females pay him absolutely no attention.
- Mark

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Last Letter

Yesterday marked the 47th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death. Ever the faithful letter writer, Flannery continued to correspond with her friends almost up to the end. According to Sally Fitzgerald, O'Connor's last letters are deceptively light, even playful, in tone (see The Habit of Being, p. 560). Most correspondents didn't realize just how sick she was. Yet her chief concern throughout these final letters was finishing work on her second collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Nevertheless, as O'Connor penned these words to her friends, there is an undercurrent of sorrow over the inevitable separation that would occur. On July 28, 1964, Flannery wrote her last letter. This note to Maryat Lee, written in a "shaky, nearly illegible hand" (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 367) is in response to an anonymous crank call Lee received and reveals O'Connor's deep concern for her friend's well being:
Cowards can be just as vicious as those who declare themselves - more so. Dont take any romantic attitude toward that call. Be properly scared and go on doing what you have to do, but take the necessary precautions. And call the police. That might be a lead for them. Dont know when I'll send those stories. I've felt too bad to type them. Cheers, Tarfunk
(The Habit of Being,
p. 596)
- Mark