Sunday, June 25, 2017

On Andalusia's Book Club

This forthcoming Thursday morning at Andalusia is one of my newfound joys out here at the farm: the monthly meeting of the Book Club. We’ll be taking a look at Wise Blood, and while the novel itself came together while Flannery was up north and away from Andalusia, there’s only so far that the place of composition and setting of that novel can get us before we’re grounded once more in the style and wit of Flannery’s Andalusia years.

I’ll do my best to replicate Dr. Bruce Gentry’s leadership for the next couple of meetings. Fortunately, my own teaching days are replete with O’Connor, and even this past term I featured Wise Blood on my freshmen syllabus, and I’ve been revisiting some of the more controversial and counterintuitive readings I’ve encountered in preparing to teach. I try not to openly disagree or dismiss any reading; rather, my aim is always to get my fellow readers (in the above case, they’re students, too) to delve ever deeper whenever possible. Such is the substance of that wonderful lifelong learning; one must not be ever satisfied with one interpretation.

My own teaching resources aside, I found myself revisiting some of my students’ thoughts on the novel; those first impressions were quite a freshening of my experience with the novel. The visceral reactions to Hazel’s and Sabbath Lily’s “romance” were especially useful in that I never can quite crack the shell on many of Flannery’s fictional romances. Their responses pull Flannery back into the real world for me, out of the, ahem, haze of academics’ takes.

That dose of the real world is really the substance of a visit to Andalusia in the first place. The wit present in all those books and letters and essays is the same one who lived through the door at the back corner of my office, and I need reminding of that as often as possible. Flannery, after all, did much the same thing as we will this Thursday; there’s a rich tradition of literary discussion and readings here among the local intelligentsia. We’re proud to keep that alive, and we’ll look to fill all our chairs on the morning of the 29th.

One of many sets of visitors to Andalusia

Daniel Wilkinson is Andalusia's Visitor Services Manager and Bon Vivant. Andalusia's Book Club is held on the last Thursday of each month. For July 27th, we'll be taking a look at "Good Country People.

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