Friday, July 29, 2011

Sizzling Summer Sale

Come on out, folks, to our sizzling summer sale! Several of our books have been drastically reduced for clearance. If you've been waiting to get your copy of Writers of the American South now is your chance to get this book regularly priced at $35 for just $25. The ever popular guide book to writers' homes, Novel Destinations, is now on sale for the ridiculously low price of $9.95. And if that weren't enough, we've slashed the price of the beautifully photographed Georgia Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Peach State to the unheard of price of $12.95. While you're shopping, don't forget bumper stickers. These are among the most popular items in our gift shop and sell for $4 each or two for $7. How do we do it, you ask? Volume, volume, volume. So, friends, hurry on out to the Andalusia gift shop where our prices are as hot as the weather.
- Mark

Friday, July 22, 2011

"...the worst book I have ever read."

In a letter to her friend, Betty Hester, written fifty years ago today, Flannery O'Connor mentions that Houghton Mifflin had sent her the galley to the soon-to-be published novel, Clock Without Hands, by Carson McCullers (pictured at right). With tongue firmly in cheek, O'Connor remarks that "this long-awaited-by-the-faithful book will come out in September." She goes on to say that "it is the worst book I have ever read. It is incredible. If you want to read it, I will send it to you. It must signal the complete disintegration of this woman's talent. I have forgotten how the other three were, but they were at least respectable from the writing standpoint." (The Habit of Being, p. 445-446). This is classic O'Connor. If she loved something she praised it to the hilt. If she didn't care for a piece of writing it was the worst thing ever. There was no in-between. Also, Flannery had a tendency to castigate writers she grudgingly admired or was influenced by (e.g. Erskine Caldwell). Finally, it is worth pointing out as we suffer through one of the hottest summers on record, that in this letter (as in most of her correspondence), Flannery doesn't complain about the weather or even her health. What really irks her is bad writing, or what she perceives to be bad writing.
- Mark

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beat the Heat

The cartoon at the right pretty much captures what it's felt like around here for, say, the last two months. The massive heat wave reached its apex on Wednesday with a heat index of 110. As luck would have it, this was the same day novelist Ann Napolitano came to give a reading from her new book, A Good Hard Look. In order to make the house as comfortable as possible for her and our guests, we drew the window shades and shut off lights in the afternoon to try to conserve whatever coolness we could. Undaunted by the sauna-like conditions, 22 intrepid souls showed up at 7:00 to hear Ms. Napolitano's delightfully engaging presentation, which she cut a bit short due to the sweltering conditions in the dining room. After a brief Q&A session, visitors were treated to ice-cold lemonade and delicious home-baked cookies from one of our dedicated volunteers. Ms. Napolitano graciously stayed to sign books and chat with the folks. We've all been staggered by the heat, even the peafowl. Since the species is from India they normally withstand the heat better than the rest of us. Today it is cloudy and mercifully cooler so our birds are a lot happier. And so are we!
- Mark

Friday, July 8, 2011

Living with Lupus

Anyone familiar with Flannery O'Connor's life knows that the author was stricken with the disease lupus erythematosus when she was 25 years old, eventually succumbing fourteen years later. Many visitors to Andalusia ask us about the nature of this disease, how if affected O'Connor, and the medicine she took to combat it. While neither Craig nor I claim to have expertise in this field, we tell folks that lupus is an auto-immune disease that is hereditary (Flannery's father died of lupus at the age of 44, just two years after being diagnosed) and is still, to this day, incurable. One might think of it as being the opposite of HIV, where the body's immune system shuts down altogether. According to, "Lupus ... is a disease of the immune system. Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection. In lupus, however, the immune system inappropriately attacks tissues in various parts of the body. This abnormal activity leads to tissue damage and illness." For O'Connor the damaged tissue was her hip joints which made walking very difficult. As the photo to the right shows, she needed crutches to get around. It was due to the physical limitations imposed by the disease that Flannery and her mother moved to Andalusia in the first place. The family farm made it possible for them to set up housekeeping on the first floor to accommodate Flannery with her physical disabilities. Originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, O'Connor lived with lupus much longer than anyone expected. She managed to stay alive with daily, high dose injections of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone, derived from the pituitary glands of pigs) and cortisone. Notwithstanding, she lived with quite a bit of pain. Yet one of the most remarkable features of her letters is how little she says about her personal suffering. Indeed, in typical Flannery fashion, she makes self-deprecating quips about her illness and the painful treatments she was undergoing, as in this letter to her friend, Maryat Lee: "I owe my existence and cheerful countenance to the pituitary glands of thousands of pigs butchered daily in Chicago, Illinois at the Armour packing plant. If pigs wore garments I wouldn't be worthy to kiss the hems of them." (Brad Gooch: Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 193; photo credit: Joe McTyre)
- Mark

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Good Hard Look

On July 13th, author Ann Napolitano pictured to the right (photo credit: Nicola Dove) will be at Andalusia to read from her soon-to-be published novel, A Good Hard Look, and will sign copies afterwards. All are invited to attend this reading, which will take place at 7 p.m. As implied by the title, Ms. Napolitano's book has direct relevance to, and was inspired by, the life and work of Flannery O'Connor. In fact, O'Connor is a character in the novel. Flannery O'Connor was such a fascinating individual that it's not surprising that she has been fictionalized by other authors. Those who attended our February lecture series in 2010 may recall Michael Bishop reading from his fanciful short story, "The Road Leads Back," in which even O'Connor's crutches take on a life of their own. Who knows what surprises lay in store for readers of A Good Hard Look. We look forward to welcoming Ms. Napolitano to Andalusia and hope we'll have a good turnout for her reading. For more information about this event and the author please visit our website
- Mark