Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kindred Spirits

Several weeks ago during Lent, I cited a letter from Flannery O'Connor in which the author tells her friend, Louise Abbot, not to think of faith as being some sort of panacea for all of life's ills.  No, said Flannery.  "What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross."  This week, as I was traversing the blogosphere, I came across a similar quote from C.S. Lewis, one that Flannery would have heartily endorsed.   I don't know where this comes from, but since Flannery enjoyed an adult beverage every now and then (visitors to Andalusia can see her martini shaker), she would have certainly given her blessing to these words of Lewis: "I didn't go to religion to make me 'happy.'  I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.  If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity."
- Mark

Friday, April 20, 2012


Among the most compelling features of the just published, At Home with Flannery O'Connor, are the many anecdotes from O'Connor's friends that have never appeared in print before. In the weeks to come, I plan to share with you some of these chestnuts as a means of encouraging you to add this unique volume to your library. The first interview in the book is with Louise Abbot who shares an interesting encounter she had with Flannery on the front porch at Andalusia. Like O'Connor, Louise Abbot was (in her words) "a fairly good reader." However, after finishing the stories in A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Abbot couldn't figure out whose side the author was on. Many readers find themselves in a similar predicament because O'Connor loves all her fictional characters, even (and perhaps especially) the malevolent. Because of this narrative ambiguity, Mrs. Abbot naively assumed that O'Connor was a "thorough-going agnostic" like herself. As Mrs. Abbot quickly found out, nothing could be further from the truth. From her rocking chair on the front porch, Flannery immediately set her friend straight by reciting to her word for word the Apostles' Creed. Mrs. Abbot confessed that she was so embarrassed that she "stopped rocking and wanted to slink away." And yet, it was this encounter that was the catalyst for Louise Abbot embarking on a "new search" of her own. According to Mrs. Abbot, Flannery never meant to be a missionary, and especially not an apologist for the Catholic Church. O'Connor was happy to supply Abbot with books, but she urged restraint. She kept telling her friend, "You're going to take your time, and you're going to wait. You're going to wait and you're going to be sure that this is what you want to do." O'Connor saw the unhappy results when friends (e.g. Robert Lowell, Betty Hester) jumped into the Church too quickly. While Louise Abbot never joined the Catholic Church, it is undoubtedly true that her spiritual life was enriched immensely by her friendship with Flannery O'Connor.
- Mark

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hot off the Press!

What an exciting week this has been at Andalusia! On Tuesday we got our first shipment of At Home with Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History. Even as I write this post, editors Craig Amason and Bruce Gentry are in the Andalusia dining room signing copies of this much anticipated book. When I started here three years ago, I had heard talk about an oral history project that was in the works. At that point, some tape-recorded interviews had been made of people who knew Flannery O'Connor and had visited her at the fabled farm, and I was told that these interviews would some day - who knew when at that point - be compiled, edited, and made into a book. One of my earliest memories at Andalusia was the day Flannery's cousin, Frances Florencourt, interviewed Mary Barbara Tate, former English professor at Georgia College and one of O'Connor's good friends. After the interview was finished, Miss Florencourt invited me to the back parlor to listen to the finished product along with Mrs. Tate. What a wonderful story-teller Mary Barbara is! I was so charmed by her home-spun tales of visiting the O'Connors at Andalusia, and I promise you will be too when you read her memoirs and those of all the other interviewees in At Home with Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History. The book sells for $19.95 and is available in the Andalusia gift shop or by mail order. Signed copies are also available upon request. Stay tuned for more details about an upcoming book-signing party and reception at Andalusia.
- Mark

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mystery and Grace

One of the writers that Flannery O'Connor was reading at the time of her death was Fyodor Dostoevsky. On this day when many Christians around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, the following quote from The Brothers Karamazov seems somehow appropriate:
"Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love."
- Mark