Friday, January 29, 2010

Fifty Years Ago

I have spent some time this morning reading through O'Connor's letters in The Habit of Being from early 1960, when her second novel hit the shelves. The first review of The Violent Bear It Away that O'Connor reported seeing was in Library Journal, and it was not very favorable. O'Connor expressed suspicion to her good friend Elizabeth Hester (identified as "A" in the letters) that she expected to see more negative responses in the days ahead. Some commentaries were indeed less than flattering and illustrated a misunderstanding of the writer's intentions with the novel; however, O'Connor had managed to command notable respect since the publication of Wise Blood eight years earlier from reviewers at newspapers such as the New York Times, one of whom described her talent as a writer to be "almost overwhelming." More troubling to O'Connor than the reactions to the novel was an article published in Time magazine on February 29 where the reviewer included a couple of sentences about her struggles with lupus. She made it very clear to Maryat Lee and other friends that she did not want her medical condition to be a subject of public discussion, especially with regard to her work. While it is impossible to ignore the effects that living with lupus certainly had on Flannery O'Connor's life, attempting to interpret her fiction in light of the disease is as treacherous now as it was in 1960. I am satisfied to appreciate O'Connor's stories, recognizing that her unusual vision came not necessarily from her personal suffering, but from a greater understanding of the human condition.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Good Reading for a Foggy Friday

The rains have finally let up here at Andalusia, but the mud, dampness, and chill remain. Our hinny, Flossie, seeks refuge from the dreariness in her barn, while the peafowl retreat to their perches in the covered, back part of the aviary. How do we humans escape the gloom of a day such as this? With a good book and a cup of tea! If you are in the mood to curl up with a good read by the fireplace, let me call your attention to two books we have recently added to the Andalusia gift shop. Writers of the American South is a handsome volume by Hugh Howard that combines literary criticism, biography, and magnificent photography. It also contains some humorous anecdotes about the literary luminaries from Dixie. The other book, American Writers at Home by J.D. McClatchy, is a beautiful coffee table book that reveals through word and photograph how the physical space where an author lived influenced his or her writing. Of course, both of these books pay appropriate attention to our favorite author and the dairy farm in middle Georgia where she penned some of the greatest stories in American literature. Visit Andalusia and check out these two books. You can also buy them and any other items in our gift shop by telephone (478-454-4029). Your purchases support our efforts to preserve this major literary landmark.


Friday, January 15, 2010

A Winter Wonderland

Well not exactly today as Old Man Winter has temporarily relinquished his grip and we're enjoying almost springlike temperatures at Andalusia. Earlier in the week, however, while it was still quite chilly a good friend from Paris visited the farm and took this lovely picture of the pond covered with a thin sheet of ice. As he said when he returned from his wintry walk, Andalusia is "magical."


Friday, January 8, 2010


Is it ever cold here at Andalusia. So cold in fact that there is a thin layer of ice on the pond. In spite of the freezing weather, we are able to maintain a level of comfort in the house that O'Connor and her mother did not always enjoy. In a letter to Betty Hester from 1960, O'Connor talks about the inconveniences of farm life in the dead of winter: "During this last spell of weather, we had no water or lights and the peacocks came down from the tree in the morning with their tails frozen stiff and went limping about until the middle of the day looking very miserable." (Habit of Being - p. 379). When it got this cold, O'Connor's fingers would get so numb that typing became difficult. Nevertheless, she perservered in her craft and maintained a practice of writing at least two hours every morning.

Andalusia is breathtaking any time of the year, but in the winter it takes on an austere beauty that must be experienced. Put on your warm woolen mittens and come visit us!


Friday, January 1, 2010


As we turn the calendar to begin a new year and a new decade, we thank all of you for your support during 2009 and look forward to your continued patronage. 2010 marks a milestone in O'Connor literary history. It is the 50th anniversary of the publication of O'Connor's second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, the 55th of the short story collection, A Good Man is Hard to Find, and the 45th of the posthumous collection, Everything that Rises Must Converge. On top of that, Flannery herself would have turned 85 years old this year. To celebrate this landmark year, why not visit Andalusia this year to see the place where O'Connor penned virtually all her published fiction. You can get here by bus or buzzard.

We at Andalusia wish all of you a healthy and prosperous new year and raise a glass to toast the new decade as Flannery O'Connor surely would have. Cheers!