Friday, September 30, 2011

That Toddlin' Town

With the Flannery O'Connor Conference at Loyola University just around the corner, Craig and I will be jetting up to Chicago next Wednesday to participate in this symposium that focuses on the theological and philosophical influences in Flannery O'Connor's writings. Having a background in theology myself, I am particularly looking forward to Revelation and Convergence: Flannery O'Connor Among the Philosophers and Theologians. The conference runs from October 6-8. For more information click If you're planning to attend, stop by the Andalusia table and say hi. We look forward to seeing you.
- Mark

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flannery's Stud

No, this post is not going to be about Erik Langkjaer, the Danish textbook salesman that stole Flannery's heart. In fact, the admirer I'm referring to never even met O'Connor. Their differences couldn't have been greater. Unlike Flannery, he hailed from the North, was as Chicago as deep-dish pizza, and an agnostic (or a "cowardly atheist," as he deprecatingly called himself). And yet, for all their differences, the legendary disk jockey, actor, and oral historian Studs Terkel was a big fan of Flannery O'Connor. In his autobiography, Touch and Go, Terkel cites O'Connor's writings as being a major influence in his life and work. Having recently finished this book, I was surprised by the number of times Terkel mentions O'Connor. Specifically, it was her short story "The River" that was something of an epiphany for him. In the story the main character is a little boy named Harry/Bevel who is ignored and neglected by parents who could have come right out of a Tennessee Williams play. One day he is taken by his babysitter to a religious revival down by a red, muddy river. He decides to be baptized and is told by the preacher that now he counts. Terkel kept coming back to this story because he thought that this is what every human being wants most: to count. Of course, he and O'Connor would disagree on how that goal is achieved (O'Connor emphasizes sacramental grace), but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that, without Flannery O'Connor, we might not have such classics as Working and Hard Times, where the real-life stories of little guys struggling to count are recalled in the memorable prose of Studs Terkel.
- Mark

Friday, September 16, 2011

Perennial Bestseller

Paul Elie's excellent four-subject biography, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, came out eight years ago, and it remains one of our best-selling books in the Andalusia gift shop. Elie, a senior editor at Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, tells the story of four twentieth-century Catholic writers - Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Flannery O'Connor - whose lives rarely intersected and yet all shared a common vocation to holiness. According to a review in Publishers Weekly, these authors, whose work was steeped in their shared Catholic faith, "come together in this masterful interplay of biography and literary criticism. Elie...lays open the lives and writings of the monk Thomas Merton, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, and novelists Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy. Drawing comparisons between their backgrounds, temperaments, circumstances and words, he reveals 'four like-minded writers' whose work took the shape of a movement. Though they produced no manifesto, ... they were unified as pilgrims moving toward the same destination while taking different paths. As they sought truth through their writing, he observes, they provided 'patterns of experience' that future pilgrims could read into their lives. This volume (the title is taken from a short story of the same name by O'Connor) is an ambitious undertaking and one that could easily have become ponderous, but Elie's presentation of the material is engaging and thoughtful, inspiring reflection and further study. Beginning with four separate figures joined only by their Catholicism and their work as writers, he deftly connects them, using their correspondence, travels, places of residence, their religious experiences and their responses to the tumultuous events of their times." On a personal note, I can only concur with the PW reviewer. After finishing Elie's book, I was inspired to read Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness and since then have been re-reading many of Merton's works that have been sitting on my bookshelf for decades.
- Mark

Friday, September 9, 2011


I may have mentioned before on this blog that Flannery O'Connor used to give each child who visited Andalusia a peacock feather as a souvenir. We get visitors from time to time who came out here when they were youngsters and still have the feathers Flannery game them. While we wish we could do the same for our visitors today, we just don't have enough birds to make it possible for us to hand out peacock feathers. Remember, Flannery had as many as fifty birds out here at one time, and we have only three. However, since many people have told us they would like to have one, we are now pleased to offer for sale a limited number of feathers from our own peacock, Manley Pointer. These iridescent pinions are only $5.00 each and make a wonderful remembrance of your visit to Andalusia. Speaking of visiting Andalusia, now would be a perfect time to do so. The summer heat is behind us and the last few days have been absolutely delightful. The weather is so nice today that we were able to turn off the air conditioners and keep the front door open.
- Mark

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Blast

There are two sure signs fall is on the way - hay bales in the front pasture at Andalusia and the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. As in the past two years, Craig will be setting up a booth at the fair tomorrow morning. He is bringing with him lots of Andalusia souvenirs such as our new and very popular Murder, Mayhem, and Misfits t-shirts. There will also be stuff for the children including the Andalusia coloring book. If you're planning to go, stop by booth 509 and say hi. Sharing the booth with Craig will be Bruce Gentry, editor of the Flannery O'Connor Review and the Flannery O'Connor scholar at Georgia College. Bruce will have copies of the Review for sale as well as other GCSU publications. In addition to these two luminaries, The Decatur Book Festival will be featuring folks like Roy Blount Jr., Terry Brooks, Charles Frazier, Kinky Friedman and Natasha Tretheway. Finally, I need to put in a plug for my friend, Carl McColman, who will be speaking Sunday afternoon at 2:30 at City Hall Stage. Carl is the author of twelve books exploring spirituality from a variety of perspectives. He will be talking about his most recent book, the aptly titled, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality. For more information on the Decatur Book Festival, check out their website
- Mark