Friday, December 28, 2012


Before toasting the new year, I would like to take this opportunity to review some of the highlights of 2012.  In addition to our usual bill of fare - February lectures, Bluegrass concert, etc. - much else happened out here for which we are justifiably proud.  At the top of the list is the completion of the restoration of the Hill House.  Though we still need to put the furnishings back, the project is finished and the house should be open for visitors some time in the new year.  Stabilization of the cow barn has also been completed.  The next stage of that project will be putting on a much-needed roof.  Before we can commence that work, however, we need your $upport.  The barn is certainly one of the most recognizable buildings on the Andalusia complex, and it is vital that we do everything we can to save it.  In addition to these two projects, we built a display kiosk down by the pond  in March through the generosity of Georgia College and Georgia Power Company.  On the literary side of things we hosted a wonderful lecture by William Walsh on May 15th to celebrate the 60th anniversary of O'Connor's novel Wise Blood.  For his talk, Mr. Walsh discussed the making of John Huston's film adaptation of the novel.  Also last spring we welcomed two fiction writers who gave readings from their work: Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Dwight Holing.  One of the most memorable events of the year occurred October 6th when we hosted our first wedding ever at Andalusia.  At sunset on a beautiful fall afternoon, Stephanie Smith and Vince Vaughn tied the knot on the front lawn.  No discussion of the year's highlights would be complete without mentioning the publication of At Home with Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History.  The book, edited by our own Craig Amason and Bruce Gentry, was released in April and we had a book signing here on May 7.  Among those in attendance that day was Joe McTyre, the former photographer for the Atlanta Constitution, who took some of the most memorable photos of Flannery ever snapped.  During the past year we also had some pretty noteworthy visitors including Francis Michael Stiteler, OCSO, Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, and famed dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp.  On a personal note, the biggest surprise of the year occurred just a few weeks ago when my former college English professor, Alexis Levitin, showed up at the farm.  I hadn't seen Dr. Levitin in nearly 36 years and was absolutely stunned to see this man who had such a great influence on me.  Yes, 2012 was a memorable year indeed.  Thank you to those of you who continue to read this blog and are supportive of our work at Andalusia.  Craig joins me in wishing all of you a Happy New Year.
- Mark

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sounds of the Season

Hardly.  You won't find Andy Williams or Mitch Miller in the list of recordings that follows.  What you will see instead is a collection of records of someone with fairly refined musical tastes.  Problem is it's not necessarily a reflection of Flannery's tastes.  The collection of records in O'Connor's room at Andalusia, that we are so often asked about, was given to her by her friend Thomas Stritch in early 1964.  It thus says more about his musical tastes than hers.  We don't know what records here Flannery listened to or which ones she particularly liked (except "the 4-hand piano Chopin thing; there is a point in it where the peafowls join in..." - see The Habit of Being p. 589).  It's hard to imagine, for example, that O'Connor was particularly enamored of the angst-ridden Mahler.  And yet, in this collection there is a recording of Mahler's fourth symphony.  Also, would the very Catholic O'Connor have resonated with the very Lutheran J.S. Bach?  I'd like to think so, but there's no way of knowing.  It would be fun to think, too, that she loved Soeur Sourire (aka "The Singing Nun") whose folksy Dominique was at the top of the charts in 1963.  Yet I have my doubts since a nun accompanying herself on guitar smacks a little too much of Vatican II for O'Connor's sensibilities.  Nevertheless, it is a toe-tapping number that even someone like Flannery, the self- proclaimed "tin ear," couldn't help but sing along to.  Enjoy! 
- Mark

Flannery’s Albums
Scarlatti “12 Sonatas” Nina Milkina, piano
“Madrigals & Motets” The  Budapest Madrigal Ensemble conducted by Ferenc Szekeres
Stravinsky “Petrouchka” New York Philharmonic conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos (full ballet)
Beethoven Sonatas (opus 109 in E major and opus 110 in A flat major) Jorg Demus, pianist
Beethoven Symphony No. 9 – London Symphony Orchestra (Josef Krips conducting; Jennifer Vyvyan, Shirley Carter, Rudolph Petrack, and Donald Bell vocal soloists; BBC Chorus
Georg Philipp Telemann “Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra” (Oscar Kromer, violist; Concert Hall String Orchestra, Henry Swoboda, conductor)
Francois Couperin “First Tenebrae Service for the Wednesday of Holy Week; Three Songs; Motet: Audite Omnes” (Hughes Cuenod – tenor, Robert Brink, William Waterhouse – violins, Alfred Zighera – viola de gamba, Daniel Pinkham – harpsichordist and director)
J.S. Bach “Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo” – Johanna Martzy soloist (Sonata No. 1 in G minor and Partita No. 1 in B minor)
Wallingford Riegger “Concerto for Piano and Woodwind Quintet” and Francis Poulenc “Sextet for Piano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Horn” – The New York Woodwind Quintet
Brahms “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” – Wurttembert State Orchestra, Ferdinand Leitner, conductor; Franck “Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra” – Geza Anda, piano; Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, Eduard van Beinum, conductor
Franz Schubert “Quintet in A for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass” op. 114 – Menahem Pressler (piano), Philip Sklar (double bass), and members of the Guilet String Quartet
Mozart “Sinfonia Concertante in e-flat” and Purcell “Dido and Aeneas Suite” – Warwick Symphony Orchestra
Bach “Brandenburg Concertos” – Karl Munchinger (conductor), Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Handel “The Water Music Suite” and Mozart “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “Three German Dances,” “Ave, Verum Corpus” – Herbert Von Karajan (conductor), The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia Orchestra
Mahler “Symphony No. 4 in G major” – The Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under the direction of Eduard Van Beinum. Vocal Soloist: Margaret Ritchie (soprano)
Wagner “Tristan und Isolde” (Prelude and Love-Death); “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” (Prelude); “Tannhauser” (Overture): George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra
Mozart “Sonata in C Major” (K. 279) and “Sonata in F Major” (K. 280) – Florencia Raitzin, piano
Handel “Concerto Grosso, op. 6, No. 1; Oboe Concerto in G Minor; Cantata Cuopra Tal Vola Il Cielo; Oboe Concerto in B Flat Major; Sonata in F Major, Op. 1, No. 11; Duo in F Major for Two Recorders”  - The Telemann Society Orchestra, Richard Schulze (conductor)
Grieg “Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 (op. 46) and No. 2 (op. 55) – the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Basil Cameron
Beethoven “Missa Solemnis” – Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Otto Klemperer (vocal soloists: Ilona Steingruber, Else Schuerhoff, Ernst Majkut, Otto Wiener
Scarlatti (Sinfonia No. 5 in D minor & Concerto No. 3 in F major),  Cimarosa (Concerto for 2 Flutes and Orchestra), Paisiello (Overture to “La Scuffiava”) – Scarlatti Orchestra conducted by Franco Caracciolo
Chopin “24 Etudes” (op. 10 and op. 25) – Paul Badura-Skoda, piano
Schubert “Trio No. 1 in B flat” (op. 99) – The Albeneri Trio
Gregorian Chants (vol. 1) – Choeur de Moine Trappistes
Beethoven “Sonata no. 29 in B flat major” (op. 106) – Friedrich Gulda, piano
Beethoven “Sonata in C sharp minor” (op. 27, no. 2), “Sonata in A flat” (op. 110) – Friedrich Gulda – piano
Rimsky-Korsakov “Scheherazade” – The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Chopin (various) and Beethoven “Sonata no. 15 in D major” – Gyorgy Sandor, piano
J.S. Bach “Fantasia in A minor, Toccata in D minor, Chaconne in D minor” – Reine Gianoli, piano
Haydn, Leclair, Pergolesi  “Flute Concerti” – Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, Camillo Wanausek (flute), Paul Angerer (harpsichord)
Mozart “Mass in C Minor” (K. 427) – Pro Musica Symphony conducted by Ferdinand Grossmann; vocal soloists: Wilma Lipp, Christa Ludwig, Murray Dickie, Walter Berry.
J.S. Bach “The Clavieruebung – part 1 (Partita in B flat major, Partita in C minor) Rosalyn Tureck, piano.
J.S. Bach “Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, Fantasia in C minor, Partita No. 7 in B minor – Gyorgy Sandor, piano
Mozart “Piano Music for 4 Hands – vol. 1” Ingrid Haebler, Ludwig Hoffmann, piano
Strauss “Don Juan/ Death and Transfiguration” – The Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting.
J.C. Bach “Three Sonatas for Pianoforte – Sonata No. 5 in E major, Sonata No. 6 in C minor, Sonata No. 6 in B flat major” – Margaret Tolson, pianoforte
Soeur Sourire “The Singing Nun”

Friday, December 14, 2012


At the recommendation of my friend, James Behrens, I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Bean Trees last week.  Though I'm only halfway through the book, I am already struck by its literary kinship to Flannery O'Connor.  To cite but one example, the opening of Kingsolver's novel - one of the most memorable in modern fiction - could have easily been written by O'Connor.  Since I would be doing the author a disservice to paraphrase, I shall quote it in its entirety:
I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign.  I'm not lying.  He got stuck up there.  About nineteen people congregated during the time it took for Norman Strick to walk up to the Courthouse and blow the whistle for the volunteer fire department.  They eventually did come with the ladder and haul him down, and he wasn't dead but lost his hearing and in many other ways was never the same afterward.  They said he overfilled the tire.
As you can tell from these few lines, Kingsolver shares O'Connor's sense of the grotesque salted with dry humor.  There are other O'Connor touches I've picked up - character names (e.g. Turtle), place names (e.g. "Jesus is Lord Used Tires"), and even elements of violence.  While I don't know how much of an influence Flannery had on Kingsolver (heck, I don't even know if she's read her - though I suspect she has - or even likes her), there are some striking similarities between the two authors.  And yet Barbara Kingsolver is just as fresh and original in her time as Flannery was in hers. What's more...she is a joy to read.
- Mark

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flannery's Spiritual Home

Occasionally our visitors are surprised to learn that there are actually Catholics in Milledgeville.  We tell them that indeed there are and, while still very much a religious minority, their presence can be traced to the first part of the nineteenth century.  Indeed, Flannery O'Connor's great-grandfather Hugh Donnelly Treanor, who emigrated from Ireland in 1824 and became a prosperous grist mill operator, was one of the founding members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  In fact, as O'Connor later reported, "Mass was first said here in my great-grandfather's hotel room, later in his home on the piano." (The Habit of Being, p. 520).  After Treanor died, his widow donated the land on which Sacred Heart Catholic Church now stands.  It is said that when the hotel where that first mass was celebrated was demolished in 1874, the bricks were used to build the church.  Sacred Heart was, of course, a very important place for Flannery.  Not only were her parents married and buried out of the church, but it was the locus of her daily communion.  Every morning following coffee, Flannery and her mother would get in the car and drive down to the corner of Jefferson and Hancock for the 7:00 mass.  According to one parishioner, "Flannery sat in the fifth pew on the right side." (Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 223).  Even on Sundays she and her mother liked to go to the first mass of the day.  She once quipped, "I like to go to early mass so I won't have to dress up - combining the 7th Deadly Sin with the Sunday obligation."  These days the first mass is celebrated a bit later - 9:00 a.m.  Whether you are Catholic or not, the good people of Sacred Heart are always happy to welcome visitors and will gladly show you Flannery's spiritual home.
- Mark

Friday, November 30, 2012

Door Decor

Though it is reported that the O'Connors did very little decorating for Christmas - we're not sure they even put up a tree - we do think Flannery would be pleased with the new peacock wreath we ordered for the front door.  Craig puts it well on the Facebook page: "The front door at Andalusia is all dressed up for the holidays! Was there any doubt about what kind of wreath we would use? And just for the record, our fine feathered friends here at the farm did not have to sacrifice any plumage for this beautiful decoration."  Nevertheless Mary Grace, Joy/Hulga, and Manley Pointer join us in wishing you all the happiest of  holidays.
- Mark

Friday, November 23, 2012

Flann's Fan

While it's fairly well known that Flannery O'Connor has influenced a number of contemporary cultural icons (e.g. Bruce Springsteen, Conan O'Brien, Tommy Lee Jones), she has also inspired some notable modern writers. Starting today, I'd like to focus on a few of these authors.  The first is Heather King, a non-fiction writer I was introduced to this year.  In her own words, Heather is "an ex-barfly, ex-lawyer, Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (my year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. 'with' St. Therese of Lisieux, a cloistered 19th-c. French nun). I write, I speak, I teach, I explore the confluence of creativity and transcendence; the sacred and the profane; the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky."  With a writer who is drawn to the "confluence of creativity and transcendence" is it any wonder then that she counts Flannery O'Connor as her literary muse?  There are others, but if you go to Heather's blog you will see that Flannery tops the list of her "patron saints."  Like O'Connor, Heather King has a wonderful sense of humor combined with a depth of spiritual understanding.  She is a splendid writer whose books I cannot recommend highly enough.
- Mark

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mulling it Over

I'm sitting here in front of a blank screen wondering what I'm going to write about this week.  Hmmm.  There's been so much going on at Andalusia lately.  Should I blog about the Bluegrass concert last Saturday? What about the herd of deer that are grazing on the front lawn munching the bumper crop of acorns? Then again I could write about Fr. Methodius, one of the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, who visited the farm yesterday.  Gosh, I can't seem to come up with anything.  Maybe I'm distracted by the intoxicating aroma of apple cider mulling in the crock pot in the kitchen.  Perhaps we're a bit early, but we couldn't wait to get the holidays underway with our annual tradition of keeping a pot of mulled cider brewing during operating hours.  The house smells delightful.  It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving will be here next week. We will be closed in observance of the holiday on Thursday, but the rest of the week we will be open during regular hours.  Craig joins me in wishing you and those  you love a very happy Thanksgiving.
- Mark

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ornamental Birds

It's hard to believe the holidays are fast approaching, but with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, Christmas won't be far behind.  Therefore, it isn't too soon to start thinking about decorating your tree. And what could be a more colorful touch or a better souvenir of Andalusia than one of these iridescent blue peacock ornaments?  Each one is crafted from glass and accented with gold, silver, and amber glitter and features the signature eye-like design of a peacock's feathers (size: 3.25" H). We just put them out on display yesterday and already have sold several.  If you're coming to the Bluegrass concert tomorrow, the gift shop will be open and you can pick yours up then. Otherwise, call us or stop by during our regular hours to purchase yours for only $6.99 ea.
- Mark

Friday, November 2, 2012

No Bluffing Bob

Recently in this blog I have been featuring people who influenced Flannery O'Connor or encouraged her in her art.  Today, I would like to profile her editor, Robert Giroux. There is so much one could say about him.  He was loved and respected by virtually all who knew him.  Some time after Giroux's death in 2008, I read a piece by a young woman who had been an intern at Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux.  She was hardly someone the publisher of the likes of T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn would notice, much less speak to.  Yet, she shared her memories about how Giroux encouraged and inspired her in the publishing business.  When this woman was offered an editorial position with another firm, she was torn because she didn't want to leave FSG.  She talked to Giroux about her dilemma, and he encouraged her to take the opportunity.  Her story is not unique.  Giroux had a real eye for talent, and when he noticed it he was the best editor a writer could hope to have.  Perhaps this is one reason O'Connor decided to leave her first publisher, Rinehart, and go with Giroux who was then at Harcourt Brace.  Giroux had an uncanny ability to recognize a true writer after just one meeting.  Such was the case when he met Flannery.  He knew right away she was not only a competent writer, but one of a very high order.  He was also impressed that she seemed to know what she wanted to do in her fiction. In an interview done near the end of his life, Giroux said "Good writers, I mean, people who are going to be successful, know what they want to do.  They're not confused or wondering about this or that or irrelevant decisions - it's life with a target.  And she [O'Connor] had that quality.  And  you also knew that if she started a job, she'd finish it.  It was competence, the sort that's unexpected." (At Home with Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History, p.86).  Giroux knew that Flannery was the real deal.  There was no"bluff" with her.  Nor was there with  him.  During Giroux's memorial service at the Columbia University chapel four years ago, Paul Elie, an editor at FSG, remarked, "It is tempting to float an analogy between his death and the death of a certain kind of publishing. But the fact is that his kind of publishing was rare in his own time, and so was he."
- Mark

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Saint for Modern Times

While doing some research for my blog post last week, I discovered quite by accident that Flannery O'Connor used to subscribe to the Catholic Worker, the weekly newspaper founded by Dorothy Day in 1933.  This factoid caught my attention for two reasons.  First, I just finished Jim Forest's superb biography of Day, All is Grace.  Second, even though O'Connor was a voracious reader, I was surprised to find out that she would take a publication that espoused views that often contradicted her own.  In a 1956 letter to Betty Hester, O'Connor asked, "Do you see the Catholic Worker?  It irritates me considerably because I don't go for the pacifist-anarchist business, but every now and then you will find something fine in it." (The Habit of Being p. 173).  At times Dorothy Day herself  took actions that O'Connor could not countenance, as for instance when she visited Koinonia, the Christian agricultural community in Americus, Georgia.  Near the end of her visit to the farm, Dorothy Day was nearly killed when a drive-by sniper shot at her car.  When Flannery heard about this terrifying incident she quipped to her friend Betty Hester: "All my thoughts on this subject are ugly and uncharitable - such as: that's a mighty long way to come to get shot at, etc.  I admire her [Day] very much.  I still think of the story about the Tennessee hillbilly who picked up his gun and said, 'I'm going to Texas to fight fuhmuh rights'...I wish somebody would write something sensible about Koinonia - as  you say it is something regressive which is getting all the benefit of martyrdom.  I think they should be allowed to live in peace but that they deserve all this exaltation I highly doubt.  D.D. [Dorothy Day] wrote up her trip there in the CW [Catholic Worker], which I duly enclose  It would have been all right if she hadn't had to stick in her plug for Their Way of Life for Everybody." (The Habit of Being, pp. 218-220).  Though Flannery remained conflicted about Dorothy Day and the work she was doing, she kept up her subscription to the Catholic Worker, and it was in the pages of that paper that she discovered the Prayer to St. Raphael, the prayer that ever afterward she repeated before she went to bed at night.

Every now and then, the idea gets kicked around that Flannery should be canonized.  While that is probably not going to happen in my lifetime, the official process is well underway in the Church to recognize Dorothy Day.  Because of her lifetime of care and advocacy for the poor, the forsaken, the hungry, and the homeless, Dorothy Day is indeed a saint for modern times.  However, when Day was approached once and told that some people considered her a saint, she replied "Don't call me a saint - I don't want to be dismissed so easily."  One can imagine O'Connor repeating these words to those today who wish to beatify her.
- Mark

Friday, October 19, 2012

Country Hitchin'

It's a beautiful fall day here at Andalusia, much like it was two weeks ago when Stephanie Smith and Vince Vaughn were united in marriage on the front lawn in a beautiful ceremony at sunset.  Though we're aware of at least a couple wedding receptions out here in the past, this is the first time in the Foundation's history that a couple has ever tied the knot on the premises. I have sometimes wondered why it's taken this long.  You couldn't ask for a prettier place to have a wedding and, for a Flannery O'Connor fan like Stephanie Vaughn, why Andalusia is just about perfect.  In honor of the setting, the bride chose dresses for her attendants in peacock hues of  blue, purple, green, and copper.  Each of the ladies had peacock feathers in  her hair and the bride carried some of the colorful plumes in her bouquet.  Even the wedding cake was decorated with peacocks.  Now that's an O'Connor fan!  You can see more photos from the wedding and reception by clicking this link.  Congratulations Stephanie and thank you for sharing your wedding pictures.  Thank you, too, for your kind words on Facebook.  All of us here at Andalusia wish you and Vince many happy years together. 
- Mark

Friday, October 12, 2012

"What about the picture in the dining room?"

With the interest that last week's post generated, I thought I would devote this week's to another piece of art visitors to Andalusia sometimes ask us about: the framed picture over the living room/dining room mantle.  Though a bit water-stained, it is a print of the painting "Crossing a Highland Loch," by the nineteenth-century British painter Jacob Thompson.  Finished in 1858, the title of the composition is a bit misleading as it looks more like the travelers depicted are crossing the cow pond at Andalusia rather than a lake in the Scottish highlands.  Though largely forgotten today, Thompson was a popular artist in his day, and his work was much in demand.  Born in 1806 to a family of prosperous Quakers, he decided early on that he wanted to pursue a career as an artist.  Unfortunately, he received no encouragement from his father who believed his son ought to find something more practical to do with his life.  So he was soon apprenticed to a house painter to learn that trade.  In his spare time, however, Thompson continued to cultivate his talent as a landscape painter.   He soon attracted the notice of Lord Lonsdale who introduced the young artist to the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830).  With this valuable connection Thompson managed to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Art.  He started exhibiting his work in 1824.   From the very beginning of his career until he made his last brush stroke, Thompson cleaved to a rather prosaic, academic style that evinces little artistic growth or maturity.   After living in retirement forty years, Jacob Thompson died on  Dec. 27, 1879. 
- Mark

Friday, October 5, 2012

Schmalz[y] Art

Occasionally visitors to Andalusia ask us about the painting in Flannery's room by Robert Hood.  On Tuesday, however, someone asked me about the picture in the upstairs guest room.  I must admit that I drew a blank, mainly because I hadn't been upstairs in a while and thus had a hard time recalling it.  After this visitor left, I ran upstairs to take a look at the painting she was referring to.  I then did a Google search and discovered that our picture is a print of the painting, Return from Calvary, by the relatively unknown British artist, Gustave Schmalz. Relatively unknown among Pre-Raphaelite painters, Schmalz's art is characterized by an overwrought emotionalism that some, with our jaded 21st-century sensibilities, find repugnant.  Be that as it may, Schmalz's work was quite popular in its day.  He was born in England in 1856, the son of a German father and English mother.  He received his art training at the South Kensington School of Art and later at the Royal Academy of Arts.  He studied with Frank Dicksee, Stanhope Forbes, and Arthur Hacker.  He then went to Antwerp to perfect his style of conventional history painting.  After a trip to Jerusalem in 1890, Schmalz created a series of paintings with New Testament themes, Return from Calvary (1891) being his best known piece.  In the late 1890s Schmalz switched to painting portraits.  In 1900 an exhibition of his work was held at the Fine Art Society on Bond Street in London.  He was friends with other English artists including William Holman Hunt, Val Prinsep, and Frederic Leighton.  After Germany was defeated in World War I, Schmalz changed his name to John Wilson Carmichael.  He continued to be active in London until his death in 1935. 
- Mark

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lord Weary

Though not a bridge player myself, I do occasionally glance at The Aces on Bridge column in the newspaper because it often contains some interesting quotes.  Today, for instance, I came across this quote from the poet Robert Lowell: "I am tired.  Everyone's tired of my turmoil."  Poor Robert Lowell.  The writer suffered terribly from manic depression and his inner "turmoil" greatly concerned his friends, including Flannery O'Connor.  Lowell, who Flannery got to know during her stay at Yadoo, recognized her genius at once and encouraged her in her writing.  He also introduced her to fellow poet Robert Fitzgerald and his wife, Sally, who were to become so crucial in O'Connor's life and career.  Equally profound was Lowell's introduction of her to Robert Giroux, a junior editor at Harcourt Brace who later would add Flannery to Harcourt's growing stable of stars - including such luminaries as Jean Stafford (Lowell's first wife), T.S. Eliot, Hannah Arendt, and Robert Lowell himself.  As the years went by Flannery became increasingly worried about her friend's mental disintegration.  Yet through it all, according to Brad Gooch, Cal Lowell would "remain one of the rare souls for whom [Flannery] felt a lifelong affection." (Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 6).
- Mark

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Here!

A couple months ago I mentioned in this blog that the log-awaited book Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons had just been published by Fantagraphics.  What I didn't say was that this handsome book is now on sale at the Andalusia gift shop for the modest price of $22.99.  A real bargain for a hard-bound book full of not only Flannery's cartoons, but also photographs from her time at Georgia State College for Women, and interpretive essays on the cartoons by Barry Moser and the book's editor, Kelly Gerald.  According to Vanna Le of Forbes Magazine, "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons has just the right amount of charm you would expect from a young and witty O'Connor. But it's more than just a book for laughs -- it offers some insight into O'Connor's personal life as well as her mockery towards the pretensions of her social environment."  Call us today (478-454-4029) to order your copy. 
- Mark

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Man of the Hour

In all things O'Connor, the man of the hour is without a doubt Bill Sessions.  The retired Georgia State University professor and Andalusia board member has just finished the authorized biography of Flannery O'Connor, Stalking Joy, which will likely be released next year.  As if that massive project weren't enough for a retiree, Dr. Sessions keeps up an active speaking schedule.  On October 25th, he will be the keynote speaker at Emory University's Aquinas Center.  The title of his lecture is "Flannery O'Connor and Freud: the Meaning of Life in Death."  About the subject matter, one can imagine Flannery chiding her friend, "Oh Billy, there you go again."  Nevertheless, the talk promises to be as interesting as it is provocative.  For more information check out our website or the Aquinas Center's After this lecture the indefatigable Dr. Sessions will be presenting at the University of Louisiana - Lafayette Nov. 9-10.  For more information on this event click here.  Though he was sometimes teased mercilessly by O'Connor and Betty Hester (Bill once said that he was Flannery's "pinata"), there are few who have done as much to promote O'Connor's legacy than Bill Sessions. 
- Mark

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nobel Notable

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned in this blog that, despite the fact that I graduated with a degree in English in 1980, it took me nearly thirty years to get around to reading Flannery O'Connor.  What a big gap in my literary education that was!  Just as mysteriously appalling, we never covered John Steinbeck (pictured) in the undergraduate curriculum!  Don't ask me why, but I can take some comfort in the fact that apparently O'Connor hadn't read him either (as she confesses to Betty Hester in a letter dated Aug. 21, 1955 (The Habit of Being, p. 95).  But that didn't stop her from making a snarky comment to Hester when Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962: "Can you fancy Steinbeck getting the Nobel prize.  John O'Hara will be getting it next." (The Habit of Being, p. 498).   One would like to think that someone as well read as O'Connor would have at least dipped into Steinbeck a bit before dismissing him so easily (and perhaps she did).  Maybe Flannery was secretly hoping that she was going to be the recipient of the prestigious prize that year.  Who knows, but no reasonable person can seriously question the Nobel committee's choice fifty years ago.  Steinbeck, for his part, was modest about his talent as a writer and so humble he wouldn't have minded it at all if someone he felt worthier were chosen e.g. Al Capp, the creator of the satirical comic strip Lil Abner who Steinbeck declared was "possibly the best writer in the world today." (ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: Biography: Al Capp 2- A CAPPital Offense. May 2008).
- Mark 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Monastic Guests

Of all the rotten luck!  I was out of town last Friday when two monks from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit visited Andalusia: Rt. Rev. Francis Michael Stiteler, abbot of the monastery, and Br. Cassian Russell.  As many of you who read this blog already know, Flannery O'Connor and her mother had a close relationship with the monastery in Conyers and occasionally would visit Our Lady of the Holy Spirit.  On occasion, Dom Augustine Moore, Fr. Paul Bourne, and other monks would also come to Andalusia.  However, the visit by Fr. Francis Michael and Br. Cassian last week marks the first time in about a half century that the Cistercians have set foot in the O'Connor farm house.  According to Craig, the monks from Holy Spirit spent about an hour here before heading off to visit the O'Connor Room at GCSU.  Speaking of the school, before becoming a monk, Br. Cassian was an associate professor of early childhood education at GCSU and is thus familiar with Milledgeville and the college.  Fr. Francis Michael is a committed naturalist/conservationist who has identified many, many species of butterflies and dragonflies during his 38 years at the monastery.  It's not surprising, therefore, that he came equipped with binoculars and camera to see what he could find amongst the fields and trees of Andalusia.  I was so disappointed that I couldn't be here but hope our monastic guests will consider visiting us again.
- Mark

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary to the Review!

Posting early this week because I'm off again for a short vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The same cannot be said for Bruce Gentry and his team of editors at the Flannery O'Connor Review.  They have been quite busy of late putting the finishing touches on the 2012 issue, which is due to be released in early September.  This is a special edition of the journal, which is marking its tenth anniversary as the Flannery O'Connor Review and the 40th anniversary of its inception as The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin.  Copies of the Review will be available at the Andalusia Gift Shop for $15 each.  In the mean time, we have another item in the gift shop that is sure to interest visitors of all ages: colorful peacock feathers courtesy of our resident bird, Manley Pointer, who has been molting this past week.  These feathers make a wonderful souvenir of a visit to Andalusia, but hurry, supplies are limited.
- Mark

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Child's Book?

In the early fall of 1960, Flannery O'Connor received a copy of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from her friend Caroline Ivey who insisted O'Connor read it.  She did, and afterwards shared her thoughts with Betty Hester:  "I think I see what it really is - a child's book.  When I was fifteen I would have loved it.  Take out the rape and you've got something like Miss Minerva and William Green Hill.  I think for a child's book it does all right.  It's interesting that all the folks that are buying it don't know they're reading a child's book.  Somebody ought to say what it is..." (The Habit of Being, p. 411).  Just because O'Connor felt Lee's novel lacked sophistication, does that make it a bad book?  I don't think so.  In looking back over the literature I was assigned to read in high school, I would have done a lot better with To Kill a Mockingbird than with some of the stuff that was foisted on us.  I don't think a teenager is necessarily ready for Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or even Flannery.  I know I wasn't.  The Great Gatsby was totally beyond me.  Had we, instead, been assigned  To Kill a Mockingbird, I would have been drawn into this story narrated by a child like me who didn't exactly fit in.  Granted Lee's novel is not likely going to be part of an English major's curriculum in college, but that doesn't mean that it isn't suitable for older readers.  I think the best "children's" literature operates on two different levels, and appeals to both children and adults.  Think of a book like The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Even the best cartoons (e.g. Bugs Bunny, Rocky & Bullwinkle) are not geared solely for children.  The same goes for To Kill a Mockingbird.  Its themes are timeless, and it's a delight to read - at whatever age.  Just because a book is popular does not necessarily mean it's bad. Maybe Flannery was just a little bit jealous.
- Mark

Friday, August 10, 2012

Daring Devotional

Last Friday marked the 48th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death.  To commemorate the occasion the little devotional magazine I subscribe to, Give Us This Day, included a brief essay about her in the readings for August 3rd.  I was surprised to see this since the subjects of the "Blessed Among Us" reflections are usually canonized saints.  The editors of this journal must consider Flannery to be among the blessed in heaven since her name also appears in their calendar for August 2012, sandwiched between St. Lydia (Aug. 2) and St. John Vianney (Aug. 4).  There are other surprises on the calendar, too - Black Elk (Aug. 17) and Simone Weil (Aug. 25).  And these two were not even Catholic!  I applaud the editors for the breadth of their vision.  Give Us This Day is a truly Catholic journal in the best and broadest sense of that word.  Who knows?  In six months maybe we'll see Martin Luther's name (Feb. 18). 
- Mark

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bloggers Beware

A word to the wise for us bloggers from the creators of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip...

I'm off to Kansas for a short vacation.  Be back to blogging next week.
- Mark

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Gold

With the opening of the Olympics tonight in London, some might wonder if Flannery O'Connor had any interest in sports or competed in athletics.  Other than riding horses at her uncle Bernard's farm when she was a child, there is no evidence to suggest that Flannery ever participated in sports.  Indeed, the onset of lupus in 1950 ruled out her taking part in athletics altogether. While she may have been physically unable to engage in sports, she was a sports fan.  Her favorite sport was boxing and the boxer she most admired was Cassius Clay, who won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.  Given the cultural climate in middle Georgia at the time, declaring one's allegiance for the brash young boxer from Louisville was scandalous to say the least.  Nevertheless, O'Connor had deep admiration for Clay whose public statements could be as controversial as some of the things Flannery herself said in print.  She admired Clay not only for his athletic prowess, but also that he had deeply held convictions that he was willing to stand up for, even if O'Connor did not always share his views.  Two years after Flannery died, Clay denounced the war in Vietnam and refused to submit to the draft because he believed US involvement in southeast Asia was unjust.  His religious convictions were equally as strong.  When Clay converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he created quite a stir that even took Flannery by surprise.  In a politically incorrect letter to her friend Maryat Lee on May 21, 1964 she demurred "...Cassius is too good for the Moslems." (The Habit of Being, p. 580).
- Mark

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teachers on Tour

Among the visitors to Andalusia during the summer are a good many high school and college English teachers who are using their vacations to see the homes of some of their favorite writers. Often times Andalusia is just the first stop on a literary pilgrimage to Walden Pond, Dickinson's Amherst, or the homes of Emerson and Hawthorne in Concord.  The majority of these teachers, however, are usually heading west to visit the homes of  southern writers like Faulkner, Welty, McCullers, et. al.  If, like these English teachers, you have a yen to tour the homes of your favorite southern authors, I would encourage you to check out the web site  The Southern Literary Trail is a consortium of writers homes/museums in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. In addition to providing a ton of useful information for anyone desiring to visit these authors' homes, the SLT celebrates tri-state writers with the nation's only regional literary festival, Trailfest.  This event, which occurs every other year, includes tours, films, play performances, and panel discussion in 18 southern cities - many of which are free and feature prominent contemporary writers.  The next Trailfest will be in 2013.  For a complete schedule (not available yet) and more information visit SLT's website. 
- Mark

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another Cartoon Book!

Big news in the publishing world!  A second book of Flannery O'Connor's cartoons has just been released. Edited by Kelly Gerald, Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is creating quite a buzz on the internet.  Ms. Gerald holds B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in English as well as a second Master’s degree in philosophy and religion. Her previous publications include work on Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Cormac McCarthy. Kelly works as senior writer-editor and director of media relations for the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington, D.C. and part-time as an Associate Professor of English for University of Maryland University College. According to the Fantagraphics website:
Flannery O’Connor was among the greatest American writers of the 2nd half of the 20th century; she was a writer in the Southern tradition of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Carson McCullers, who wrote such classic novels and short stories as Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, and “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” She is perhaps as well known for her tantalizing brand of Southern Gothic humor as she is for her Catholicism. That these tendencies should be so happily married in her fiction is no longer a surprise. The real surprise is learning that this much beloved icon of American literature did not set out to be a fiction writer, but a cartoonist. This seems to be the last well-kept secret of her creative life.  Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons, the first book devoted to the author’s work in the visual arts, emphasizes O’Connor’s most prolific period as a cartoonist, drawing for her high school and college publications in the early 1940s. While many of these images lampoon student life and the impact of World War II on the home front, something much more is happening. Her cartoons are a creative threshing floor for experimenting and trying out techniques that are deployed later with such great success in her fiction.  O’Connor learns how to set up and carry a joke visually, how to write a good one-liner and set it off against a background of complex visual narration. She develops and asserts her taste for a stock set of character types, attitudes, situations, exaggerations, and grotesques, and she learns how to present them not to distort the truth, but to expose her vision of it.
She worked in both pen & ink and linoleum cuts, and her rough-hewn technique combined with her acidic observations to form a visual precursor to her prose. Fantagraphics is honored to bring the early cartoons of this American literary treasure to a 21st century readership.
For an audience resistant to your views, O’Connor once wrote, “draw large and startling figures.” In her fiction, as in her cartoons, these shocks to the system never come without a laugh.

With all due respect to Fantagraphics, this is not the first book devoted to O'Connor's work in the visual arts.  That honor belongs to Georgia College, which last year published The Cartoons of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College.  Also, I'm not sure how Flannery would feel about being characterized as a writer in "the tradition of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner [aka "the Dixie Limited"], and Carson McCullers.  Be that as it may, the Fantagraphics book includes some of O'Connor's art work from high school and, therefore, would make a worthy addition to any Flannery-o-phile's library.
- Mark

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Trappist and the Thomist

Occasionally visitors at Andalusia ask us about Thomas Merton and Flannery O'Connor.  Because they were contemporaries, a lot of folks assume that Merton and Flannery knew each other or, at the very least, corresponded with one another.  Unfortunately, neither is the case.  Though they were aware of one another, and each had read the other's work, they never met or exchanged letters.  They did, however, have the same editor at Harcourt Brace, Robert Giroux.  When Flannery was introduced to Giroux in 1949 she asked if he would give her a copy of Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain.  When this spiritual memoir, which tells the tale of the author's abandonment of the literary life of Manhattan to become a Trappist monk in Kentucky, came out the year before it was an immediate sensation. Many of the young men who read it were so inspired that the Abbey of Gethsemane, where Merton lived, was overrun with aspirants (to the point that tents were raised in the cloister to house them).  Eventually, the overcrowding became such a problem that the monastery needed to found a daughter house in rural Rockdale County, Georgia.  This, of course, became the The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, which I've written about elsewhere on this blog.  I don't know how Flannery felt about The Seven Storey Mountain.  My guess is that she had some reservations. In 1955 when her first collection of short stories came out, Giroux wrote her to inform her that the book was selling better than anything on their list except Thomas Merton.  Flannery confided to her friend Ben Griffith, "[it] doesn't say much for their list, I guess." (The Habit of Being, p. 89)  Yet O'Connor respected Merton and his opinion mattered to her.  When her second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was published in 1960, she wrote to Giroux anxious to find out what Merton thought about it. (The Habit of Being, p. 380) While Flannery may have been measured in her assessment of the monk's writings (though by this time her library included a number of his books), Merton was characteristically effusive in his praise for the author from Milledgeville. After Flannery died, Merton wrote a much-quoted epitaph: "When I read Flannery O'Connor, I do not think of Hemingway, or Katherine Anne Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles.  What more can you say for a writer?  I write her name with honor, for all the truth and all the craft with which she shows man's fall and his dishonor." (quoted in A Literary Guide to Flannery O'Connor's Georgia, p. 86).  Indeed, what more can you say for such a writer?
- Mark

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out O.E. Parker

Craig and I don't usually make a practice of profiling Andalusia visitors.  On the other hand, when a car comes up the driveway and it's a Prius or a Volvo we are pretty certain that it is not someone who is here to work on the Hill house or cow barn.  Similarly, when a visitor comes through the front door wearing peacock earrings, I can be pretty sure that she is a Flannery O'Connor fan.  Last Tuesday, a couple pulled up on a Harley, and my guess was that they were here because they happened to see the Andalusia sign along the highway and it looked like it might be something worth checking out. For some reason, I assumed their interest in O'Connor was negligible.  Was I ever mistaken!  After I greeted them, I asked if it was their first visit to the farm. Turns out these folks, Daryl and Kendra Kochel, came all the way from Idaho on motorcycle to see the O'Connor homestead.   Kendra said that ever since college it has been her dream to come to Andalusia, and here she finally was.  To show me just how devoted she is to Flannery O'Connor, she turned around and displayed what had to be the largest peacock feather I have ever seen tattooed on a human body. Kendra, who teaches high school English in Boise, was gracious enough to allow us to photograph her. How cool is that tatt!!
- Mark

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Good Bedtime Story?

A couple weeks ago a visitor told me about the time his wife read their daughter a bedtime story, one that's gotta be right up there with Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Apparently this woman had no idea who Flannery O'Connor was when she guilelessly picked up "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and began reading the story to her child.    To say that she was shocked is an understatement.  However, long before she reached the chilling conclusion the child had drifted off to sleep.  The same cannot be said for the story-teller who, I was told, stayed awake half the night. 

Summer is heating up in Milledgeville and so are the discounts in the Andalusia gift shop.  Starting this week, all bumper stickers have been permanently marked down to $3 ea. or 2 for $5.  Talk about one hot deal!
- Mark

Friday, June 15, 2012

Drawn to the Grotesque

Like the photographer Diane Arbus (one of her notable photographs is at the right), Flannery O'Connor was intrigued by the grotesque.  The question needs to be asked why, especially when it is an element in her writing that may repel some readers.  I can speak from experience, for I was one of them. Even though I graduated with a bachelor's degree in English back in 1980, it took me nearly thirty years to read her for the first time.  Though some of my favorite writers like Thomas Merton thought she was fabulous, I was put off by what I had heard about her, namely that she was a southern Gothic writer who dealt in the grotesque.  At the same time, I felt like she was an important author I needed to read, and so I decided take the plunge.  While I was immediately taken by the depth of her spiritual vision and dry, off-beat sense of humor, I still couldn't understand her fascination with the grotesque.  Then I stumbled across a book that was quite illuminating.  Though Belden Lane's The Solace of Fierce Landscapes is not about Flannery O'Connor per se, it explores the theme of grace and the grotesque that runs through her stories.  According to Lane, "the grotesque is born out of a dislocation that people feel in an estranged world.  In periods of personal or cultural crisis, human beings experience a loss of control in a universe that's no longer reliable.  The grotesque mirrors their fear of the incomprehensible; it recalls to mind an ominousness they cannot name."  (Lane, p.31)  At the same time, the grotesque is "a daring exercise in summoning the absurd, making fun of what is feared.  Its goal is to defeat, at least in the space of a brief moment's laughter, the powers of darkness."  (Lane, p. 32)  Thomas Mann once said that "the grotesque is the only guise in which the sublime may appear."(source of quote not provided in Lane, p. 32)  I don't know if the German author ever read Flannery (her first collection of short stories was published the year he died), but never has there been a clearer, more concise statement on why she chose to populate her stories with so many freaks.
- Mark

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tooting our own Horn

Three years ago today I visited Andalusia for the first time.  In a previous post I shared some of my impressions of that day and how I never imagined I would one day be working at the farm.  When I look back over the last three years I am astonished at how much has changed and how many improvements to the property have been made.  Here is how the farm looked back on that June day in 2009.  The Hill house was in shambles, there were neither peacocks nor an aviary to house them, the dairy processing shed was just beginning to be restored, the exterior of the main house needed paint, environmental education and the Bernard Cline Outdoor Learning Center were but a dream, and when needed repairs to stabilize the cow barn were going to be made was anybody's guess.  Today, as I look around the Andalusia complex, it's a much different story.  As I write this blog, work crews are busy finishing the restoration of the Hill house and have started shoring up the cow barn.  This morning there is a group of biology students from Georgia College that is doing research on the pond's ecosystem.  Their arrival at the farm was greeted by a chorus of peafowl.  Remember a visitor back in 2009 would have seen none of this.  Back then attendance averaged 71 visitors a week.  Today we're up to almost 100.  In addition to an increase in visitation, our programming has expanded significantly with many more book signings, author readings, symposiums, and special presentations.  All in all, I'd say we have a lot to be proud of, and so I hope you don't mind if we toot our own horn just a little bit.
- Mark

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ready Reference

Occasionally visitors to Andalusia will ask me if I can suggest resources for someone who wants to learn more about Flannery O'Connor.  Without a moment's hesitation, I unabashedly direct them to our website.  Besides providing a lot of useful information for folks planning a visit to the farm, this site is a veritable repository of all things O'Connor.  Containing everything from a good bibliography to multimedia presentations and FAQs, our site has it all.  Another online resource I heartily recommend is a blog called The Comforts of Home. Though I am reluctant to steer folks away from my blog, this one offers an excellent compendium of O'Connor material.  After checking out these sites, I would encourage the budding Flanneryophile to read a good biography, such as Brad Gooch's, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I quote from this book extensively and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Another resource I draw from a lot is The Habit of Being.  This collection of O'Connor's letters reveals much of her personality, spirituality, and dry, off-beat sense of humor.  The body of secondary literature on O'Connor is vast and ever-expanding.  Some of the more important of these books of literary criticism are listed on the Andalusia website.  For anyone wishing to peruse current O'Connor scholarship, I suggest checking out recent issues of the Flannery O'Connor Review.  This journal comes out once a year and presents a nice balance of essays and articles from all points of view.  Copies of the Review are available in the Andalusia gift shop or by subscription.   So there you have it, a substantial stockpile of resources to get you started in the wacky, witty world of Flannery O'Connor. 
- Mark

Friday, May 25, 2012

GI John

While Flannery O'Connor was in school at Georgia State College for Women, the Second World War was raging overseas.  Partly because of the presence of the all-female institution, soldiers were a familiar sight on the streets of Milledgeville.  The citizens of this community welcomed them with open arms, especially Flannery's aunts, the Cline sisters.  Whenever any man in uniform would show up at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, he would be invited to the Cline mansion after mass for a family dinner.  One Sunday, a handsome Marine Sergeant named John Sullivan was handed a note by Flannery's Aunt Katie Cline inviting him to be her guest at the Greene Street home for a midday dinner.  Sullivan readily accepted, and it was during this visit that he met Flannery, then in her first year at GSCW.  The two hit it off at once, in part due to their common backgrounds.  Sullivan, an Ohio boy, came from a large Roman Catholic family.  According to Brad Gooch, the two of them "were able to trade funny stories and share suppressed giggles, as he [Sullivan] became a regular visitor, a 'fixture' welcomed by all the aunts and uncles." (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 100)  Despite their similarities, Flannery and Sullivan were different in some ways.  He was debonair, outgoing, and confident.  She, who was not used to the company of young men, was awkward and painfully shy.  Yet, there was something about Flannery's off-beat humor that attracted the Marine.  The two of them went on long walks and occasionally went to see a movie.  Sullivan even escorted her to a college dance, though he discovered quickly that Flannery had two left feet.  Many years later, Sullivan said that theirs had been "a close comradeship," not a romance.  Nevertheless, as Gooch asserts, "the two played at romance enough to tease a hopeful mother.  Once, as they sat together on the couch in the parlor, Regina called liltingly over the stairwell, 'Mary Flannery wouldn't you and John like to polish the silver?'  After an exchange of amused glances her daughter wickedly answered with a flat, 'No.'"  (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 100).  Though none of O'Connor's surviving classmates or relatives remembers him, I am inclined to believe that Sullivan was Flannery's first crush.  After he left for training camp in the Pacific war zone, he and Flannery exchanged letters until the time he entered St. Gregory's Seminary in Cincinnati just after the war to study for the priesthood.  The root of Flannery's infatuation with John Sullivan may have been the similarity he bore to her recently deceased father.  Like Ed O'Connor, Sullivan was handsome, occasionally in uniform, and was "both confidant and supporter." (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 101).  As we observe Memorial Day on Monday, let us pause to remember the thousands of young men, like John Sullivan, who served our country with valor. 
- Mark

Friday, May 18, 2012

Art Imitating Art

For those of you who were unable to be with us Tuesday night for William Walsh's presentation on the making of the movie Wise Blood you missed a real treat.  The program lasted an hour and could have easily gone on twice that long given the interest of the small but enthusiastic audience.  Mr. Walsh has dedicated the last several years of his life to finding out all he can about the making of this John Huston classic.  During that period Mr. Walsh has walked and driven down the streets of Macon (where most of the movie was shot) as well as every other Georgia back road that had any connection to the movie. There is not one locale in Wise Blood that Mr. Walsh has not visited. In addition to providing a lot of inside baseball information on the making of the movie, Mr. Walsh shared pictures that were taken during the filming.  He was kind enough to have a number of these mounted on foam boards and gave them away free of charge to anyone in the audience who wanted one.  In an essay in the 2011 edition of the Flannery O'Connor Review, Mr. Walsh says "Wise Blood (the movie) and Wise Blood (the novel) were never meant to mirror each other - they were designed separately and individually, art influencing art." (Flannery O'Connor Review, vol. 9, 2011, p. 96) And, boy, did they ever do that!  In fact, the story of the making of the movie could be a Flannery O'Connor story by itself.  How many other movies can you name where two of the actors (who were children at the time) went on to become career criminals (one of whom is still in prison serving a life term for homicide)?  Or how many other movies can you name that a professional prostitute was cast in the role of a fictional street walker?  Yes, the story of the making of the movie, Wise Blood, is as twisted and riveting as any of Flannery's stories.  For those interested in learning more about it, I heartily encourage you to read William Walsh's essay in the Flannery O'Connor Review.
- Mark

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Genial Joe

On Monday afternoon, an hour before the book-signing reception for At Home with Flannery O'Connor, we had what was certainly the biggest storm here in months. It was raining so hard you couldn't see across the driveway.  By 4:00 things lightened up a bit, and we ended up having a pretty decent turnout for the event.  In addition to the editors, there were others on hand, too, who played a part in the book's creation.  One of these was photographer Joe McTyre.  As I was working in the gift shop, Mr. McTyre came up and shared some of his memories of coming out to Andalusia fifty years ago to photograph Flannery for a feature story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Sunday magazine.  Before continuing, I should mention that this was Mr. McTyre's first visit to the farm since that day in 1962, and I think it's fairly safe to say that he was dazzled by the experience.  While other guests mixed and mingled, Mr. McTyre was walking around enveloped in memories half a century old.  From the gift shop where I was busy selling books, I looked out onto the front yard and saw him, camera around his neck, looking around for the best place to take a picture of the house.  When he came back inside, he and his wife, Judy, stopped by again and chatted with me. He said that the day he came out here to take pictures of the famous author stands out in his memory so clearly.  He spent the whole day at Andalusia taking pictures of Flannery who, he said, was most congenial.  It was only after he and the reporter who accompanied him left that he learned that O'Connor had very little tolerance for news folks and, as a rule, shunned the publicity.  The pictures that Joe McTyre took that day are some of the most familiar to fans of Flannery O'Connor.  There is the famous photo of her standing on the front porch steps that adorns the dust jacket on The Habit of Being.  But Mr. McTyre told me his favorite one of all was the picture he took of Flannery sitting on the living room sofa with her self-portrait.  He said he didn't even pose her for the shot.  He just asked her to sit there and quickly snapped off what turned out to be such a self-revelatory photo.  After Flannery died in 1964, Mr. McTyre sent her mother all the proofs he had taken that day.  Needless to say, Mrs. O'Connor was grateful for his thoughtfulness and generosity. By his own admission, Mr. McTyre will always remember his visit to Andalusia in 1962. I will not soon forget his return visit in 2012.
- Mark