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


Aaron J said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Do we know what she meant by signing "Tarfunk"?

Andalusia, Home of Flannery O'Connor said...

Yes, Aaron, we do. In her correspondence with Maryat Lee, O'Connor often signed off with some variation of the name Tarwater, the main character in her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away. The letters to Maryat Lee reveal the most whimsical and sarcastic side of Flannery O'Connor, which makes them very entertaining. Thanks for your very good question!