Friday, December 30, 2011

10 for '11

In the spirit of David Letterman, we decided that we would look back over the last year and share with you what we consider to be the ten most notable events and accomplishments at Andalusia for 2011. The following are listed in neither chronological order nor in order of importance:
1. Grants - in 2011 we received two significant grants to help us restore some of the buildings on the property. In February we were awarded a $120,000 grant from "Save America's Treasures" program of the National Park Service to restore the Hill house. This past fall we received a $10,000 matching grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Council for the Arts to stabilize the cow barn.
2. Cartoon Book - In January Georgia College released The Cartoons of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College. This was the first time an original O'Connor work has appeared in print since 1979. Later in the year, the ever-popular Sanford House Cookbook was re-published. Both books are available at the Andalusia gift shop.
3. 10th Anniversary - 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of the Flannery O'Connor- Andalusia Foundation. The event passed without cake, balloons, or a whole lot of hoopla. Yet it is a big milestone for us and a tribute to everyone who has generously supported Andalusia for the last decade.
4. Re-opening of upstairs - Just in time for Flannery's 86th birthday, the upstairs was thoroughly cleaned and straightened up so we could re-open it to the public on March 25th. Thanks to our volunteers for their hard work.
5. Flannery O'Connor Conference and reception - On April 13th, the symposium sponsored by Georgia College, Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O'Connor, kicked off with a reception at Andalusia. During the three days of the conference our gift shop did a robust business.
6. Restoration of Hill House - Much of the year was spent prepping the Hill house for the restoration work that will commence in early 2012. There were numerous meetings with the architects at Lord, Aeck and Sargent. Additionally, all the furniture and belongings in the house had to be cataloged, removed, and put in temporary storage PODS in the barnyard.
7. Ann Napolitano reading - On July 13th, surely the hottest day of a long hot summer, Ann Napolitano visited Andalusia to read from her just-published novel, A Good Hard Look. Though the book and reading sparked some controversy (especially among locals), it has been highly acclaimed in the national media and Ms. Napolitano couldn't have been more gracious.
8. Guineas - On Sept. 29th we acquired five guinea fowl from a generous donor. In preparation for their arrival we built a temporary holding pen behind the aviary. Sadly, after we released them from the pen, they were preyed upon and by mid-December they were all gone.
9. Loyola Conference - In October there was another O'Connor conference. This one at Loyola University in Chicago focused on the theological and philosophical influences in O'Connor's fiction. Craig and I were privileged to represent Andalusia. Besides enjoying all that Chicago has to offer, we heard some fascinating presentations. Who ever thought Flannery could be read from a Zen Buddhist perspective?
10. Attendance record - Last, but certainly not least, as we closed out our fiscal year on Sept. 30th we set a record for number of visitors in a year. For the first time since Andalusia has been open to the public, we surpassed the 5,000 mark. We thank all of you who visited the farm and made 2011 the most successful in our history!
- Mark

Friday, December 23, 2011

All is calm? All is bright?

Despite the serenity of the picture on the right (taken after a rare snowstorm in 2010), Christmas at Andalusia was not always the peaceful affair the O'Connors might have wished it would be. In this excerpt from a letter written on Christmas day, 1958, Flannery tells her friend, Betty Hester, about a major dust-up between resident farmhands, Jack and Louise Hill:
"Big doings here the other night in preparation for the Yuletide. Louise came over after supper and said she was afraid to go back home because Jack had the gun loaded and said he was going to kill her. He was eventually persuaded by my mother to bring the gun over and leave it in the back hall. After the liquor wore off them, they all calmed down and yesterday she gave him back his gun; but today, we had to stay home to make sure hostilities didn't redevelop. So far nothing. My mother gave them a snappy sermon on: 'thou shalt not kill during the Christmas season' when she she gave them their presents last night and I guess it paid off..." (Habit of Being, p. 310)

Since we will be closed for Christmas (Dec. 25-26), Craig and I want to take this opportunity now to wish you and those you love a peaceful holiday. Oh yes, our pea chickens - Manley Pointer, Mary Grace, and Joy/Hulga - want to add their greeting, too. Eee-ooo-ii! Eee-ooo-ii! (which in their language means "We wish you a merry Christmas!")
- Mark

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yule Blues

A slight pall was cast over our holiday cheer at Andalusia last week when two of our three guineas were killed by foxes or coyotes. The sole survivor of this attack got along the best he could, but he was clearly missing his comrades. He showed little interest in eating and just hung around the aviary for companionship. No longer did he come running up to me when I went out to feed the peafowl, as he and the others once did. It was as if he had given up on life. On Friday of last week I spotted him wandering around in the pasture on the east side of the house. The last time I saw him was when I was leaving work that day. Since then there hasn't been a sign of him anywhere. Craig and I think that he went off in search of another flock. All the same, I've been holding on to the irrational hope that he might return. I finally gave up today and took in his water container. While I can't claim that the guineas had become pets, I had become kind of attached to them and now miss them running up to the car to greet me when I drive in in the morning. The fate of the guineas did not come as a big surprise, however. As I've mentioned on this blog before, there is far more wildlife out here now than when the O'Connors were living at the farm fifty years ago. This was brought home to us this morning when we discovered the trash can in which we keep the peacock feed had been pried open by some critter. There was cracked corn scattered all over the place. We think the perpetrator might have been a raccoon, but the mystery remains. How could a raccoon open a garbage can, take out the bags of cracked corn without toppling over the can? To ward off a future intrusion we have secured the can with a bungee cord and hope that will discourage vermin.
- Mark

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just in time for holiday gift giving

I can't tell you how many times during the past year I've been asked if we had any copies left of the immensely popular Sanford House Cookbook. Regrettably, I had to tell these folks that we were all sold out and didn't know if we would ever have it in stock again. Happily, I learned this week that the book has been republished, and we now have plenty of copies for sale at the Andalusia gift shop. The reissue features a plastic cover, which will be much more durable and stain resistant than the previous edition. Everything else is the same - all those recipes for the dishes the O'Connors loved at their favorite restaurant. If, after reading Brad Gooch's biography of Flannery, you have a hankering to try the Sanford House's famous fried shrimp (one of Flannery's favorites) or their signature peppermint chiffon pie, pick up a copy of the Sanford House Cookbook for yourself or give one to someone you love for Christmas. It makes a wonderful present for anyone who may remember the Milledgeville eatery and misses its tasty vittles.
- Mark

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Beginning to Smell a lot like Christmas

The day is bright, the air is crisp, and the Andalusia farm house is redolent with apples and cinnamon. In keeping with a holiday tradition, master muller Craig has brewed up a pot of his famous mulled cider. As delectable as it smells, his secret concoction is not for human consumption. It is brewing in a crock pot in the kitchen simply to delight the olfactory senses of our visitors and put everybody in the Christmas spirit. If you've never visited Andalusia now would be a perfect time to do so. Not only is the house decked out for the holidays (if you consider a wreath on the door as being decked out), but without quite so many visitors as we get in the summer, we are able to spend more time with our guests. Christmas is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year on the farm.
- Mark

Friday, November 25, 2011


What you see in Tupperware containers at the right is what many of us will be having for dinner the next few days. I love leftovers, maybe even more than the Thanksgiving dinner itself. So today I thought I'd serve up some leftovers from a previous blog. A couple weeks ago I mentioned that during my two plus years working at Andalusia I've become more keenly aware of how death is the engine of life and that all of us - whether we care to admit it or not - are dependent upon the death of another creature for our existence. This pertains as much to the life of the spirit as to our physical lives. As Craig once told a group visiting the farm, in Flannery O'Connor's novels and stories there is no redemption without violence (think of the grandmother in A Good Man Is Hard to Find or Ruby Turpin in Revelation). I would take that even further and assert that in O'Connor's fiction there is no life without death, even if it is a metaphoric dying to self and rising to new life. Again, think of Ruby Turpin or O.E. Parker in Parker's Back where, at the end of the story, the title character is splayed cruciform on a pecan tree. Now this blog is not the place for literary criticism or theological musings. My purpose here is simply to evoke a sense of life as it is presently being lived at Andalusia and as it was, as they say, "back in the day." However, as a Catholic thoroughly steeped in the Christian narrative and from what she observed almost daily on the farm, Flannery O'Connor had an acute awareness of the dependency of life upon death, and this is certainly reflected in her art.
- Mark

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gobblers' Grove

To get you in the spirit things, I thought I'd post a picture Craig took out here several years ago. Sights like this are not uncommon at Andalusia during the late fall. Turkeys must know that they are safe on our front lawn. If I were a turkey, this is where I'd want to be, too. Lots of acorns on the ground and not a hunter in sight. Whether you're having turkey or tofu, we wish you and those you love a fabulous Thanksgiving feast.
- Mark

Friday, November 11, 2011

Such Sights Colder

Just when I thought the fall couldn't get any prettier, my drive into work today from Macon was simply breathtaking. The burnished beauty of the Georgia woods in early-mid November is something to behold. Most people justifiably marvel at the beauty of springtime in the midstate, but I happen to think that fall is our prettiest time of the year. As I neared the farm with the sun shining off the hickories, maples, and tulip poplars, I thought of Gerard Manley Hopkins' elegiac poem, Spring and Fall. Hopkins, by the way, was one of Flannery's favorite poets, and she no doubt resonated with this verse as she looked out her bedroom window:

"Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Alas, amidst the beauty that surrounds us here, life on this farm is a constant reminder of death. In the short time I've been at Andalusia I've become more keenly aware how death is the engine of life. All creatures, ourselves included, are dependent upon the death of another, for our survival (even if we're vegans). Last week, we lost one of our guineas to a hungry fox or a coyote. The night before last the same fate befell another hen. We are down to three birds now and are doing what we can to keep them safe. Admittedly, our options are limited.
- Mark

Friday, November 4, 2011

They're Back!

Redline Express, one of the hottest bluegrass bands in this area, will again be performing tomorrow at Andalusia from 5:00-8:00 p.m. Pack a picnic basket, bring a lawn chair, and come on out and enjoy some fantastic music. Don't want all the fuss? No problem. Hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill will be available for a small charge. For those who want to soak up a little literary culture, the main house will be open and, prior to the concert, there will be a guided tour of the nature trail at 4:00 led by environmentalist Louis Kaduk. This is the seventh year we have hosted a bluegrass concert at Andalusia, and it remains one of our most popular fundraising events. If you are in the area - or even if you're not - I hope you'll think about coming out for a toe-tapping good time. At the same time you'll be supporting the restoration and preservation work we're doing here at the farm.
- Mark

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kindling Creativity

This morning we are hosting a group of middle school students enrolled in Georgia College's "Early College," a program designed by the university to serve at-risk children in Baldwin County. As I write, 51 youngsters have already toured the house and are now exploring the Andalusia property. They have been tasked by university student leaders with creative writing projects. One leader asked her students to write a short essay imagining what Andalusia will look like in 100 years. How will this place have changed if you were to visit the farm in 2111? It is a beautiful fall day, and the children seem excited to be here. After enjoying a snack on the grounds, they will soon be going back to Georgia College for lunch. This is the third year we have been involved with GCSU's "Early College," and we are happy to participate as it is entirely consistent with the foundation's mission of educational outreach. We hope that our "Early College" learners had a positive experience here and that they will be inspired to do more reading and writing.
- Mark

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guinea Gambol

As you can see in the picture to the right, our guinea fowl are getting used to their new environs at Andalusia. On Monday, we released the birds from their temporary pen. The first day they explored the farm, spending a good bit of the afternoon outside our office window munching berries. Later in the day we went outside to see what they were up to and were surprised to discover that they had wandered back into the pen on their own. We decided that maybe they were telling us something and that they needed to spend the night in the safety of the shelter. Tuesday morning we let them out again, and they have been outside the enclosure ever since. While they gobble up the cracked corn I strew on the ground, the guineas also enjoy foraging in the grass for insects and other tasty treats. So far, our little flock of five has stayed together, and this is reassuring to us as there is safety in numbers. Besides roaming around the perimeter of the main house, the birds have also checked out the the roof. They've flown up there only once that I am aware of, and it was a bit of an adventure for them. When they landed on the slanted metal roof they couldn't keep their footing and slid down it like it was a ski slope. Nevertheless, it was good to see them fly, for it gives us a tad more confidence that they will be able to evade potential predators. Hopefully, their gambol outside the pen this week will not prove to have been too much of a gamble on our part.
- Mark

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flannery in the White City

What a wonderful time we had at the Flannery O'Connor conference in Chicago last week! The conference at Loyola University featured some of the heavy-weights in Flannery O'Connor studies, and it was a pleasure to get to meet some of these scholars. The four days we were in Chicago were an absolute delight. The weather was sunny and warm, affording us the opportunity to take in Windy City sights such as the Art Institute, Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, and a good many other iconic buildings in this city renowned for its architecture. The site of the conference - Loyola University's Water Tower campus on Michigan Ave. (pictured to the left of the water tower) - provided magnificent vistas of the Chicago skyline. From our perch atop the 17th floor of Lewis Towers, we could see the John Hancock Building in the near distance as well as the other landmarks dotting the "Magnificent Mile." No trip to Chicago would be complete without sampling some of the city's gastronomic delicacies. We had some fabulous meals there, including a lunch of classic Chicago hot dogs on the last day. As much fun as all this was, the purpose of our being there was to promote Andalusia and further our understanding of the philosophical and theological influences in Flannery O'Connor's work. To that end, the Loyola conference was a success. While most of the presentations were first rate, the plenary address by Susan Srigley on Flannery O'Connor and Martin Buber was outstanding. What I enjoyed most, however, was meeting new friends who enthusiastically shared with us their love for Flannery O'Connor. Last and certainly not least, I would be remiss if I did not thank the Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation for making this trip possible.
- Mark

Saturday, October 1, 2011

We Did It!

For the last month or so Craig and I have been keeping careful track of attendance figures, as it looked like there was a possibility we could set a record for 2011. And yesterday it happened when, for the first time in the foundation's history, we topped 5,000 visitors for a fiscal year! It is truly a remarkable feat when you consider the state of the nation's economy and the fact that this past summer - normally one of our busiest times - was the hottest in Georgia's history. Thanks to all of you, the more than 27,000 folks who have visited Andalusia since we opened to the public and who continue to support us in so many ways.
- Mark

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

Friday, August 26, 2011


According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Baltimore home where author Edgar Allan Poe lived from 1833 to 1835 is in peril. The house museum sits in the middle of a housing project far off the usual tourist path. Due to budget cuts, the city last year completely eliminated financial support. Since then, the Poe house has been operating on reserve funds which are projected to dry up by early next summer. The city of Baltimore has hired consultants to help the Poe house come up with a business plan to make the museum financially self-sufficient. Ideas on the table include updating exhibits to attract more visitors (the Poe house and museum currently gets about 5,000 visitors per year). What does all this have to do with Flannery O'Connor and Andalusia? A lot! For one thing, Edgar Allan Poe was such a huge influence on O'Connor. It is truly heartbreaking to contemplate the possible closure of his home. God forbid that we might face a similar dilemma at Andalusia. And yet, one cannot help but be concerned because of the similarities between the two writers' residences. Like Poe's home, Andalusia sits well off the beaten track, perhaps even more so, and we get about the same number of visitors per year as they do. Fortunately, we are not reliant upon government funding to stay afloat and have so far managed to weather the tough economic downturn of the last three years through the generosity of our Friends.

It is imperative, however, that we expand this base of support if we are to remain viable in the future. Unlike Poe's home in Baltimore (or that of practically any other author you can think of ), Andalusia presents us with a unique set of challenges. Not only do we have the main house where the author lived to preserve, but all the other structures that sit on this 544 acre tract as well, some of which will collapse if more funding cannot be procured to restore them. And it is vital that we do so because Andalusia is a very special place. Not only was it where Flannery O'Connor lived and wrote, but it was the very source of her inspiration. This farm and daily life out hereso fueled O'Connor's imagination that it is impossible to read a great number of her stories and not picture Andalusia. Your continued financial support of our work is vital if we are to preserve this major literary landmark for future generations.
- Mark

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hot off the Press!

Good news for our visitors who have been asking when the latest issue of the Flannery O'Connor Review is coming out. It's here! Yesterday afternoon, editor Bruce Gentry brought over ten new copies of this, the longest-running journal dedicated exclusively to the work of a female writer. This attractive and lavishly illustrated magazine features articles on O'Connor's ecological vision, an interview with Milledgeville native and big-time author, Pete Dexter, as well as an essay by William Walsh on Wise Blood, the novel and its film adaptation by John Huston. The photographs accompanying this essay of the filming of Wise Blood are worth the price of the Review. There are also book reviews by noted O'Connor scholars Margaret Earley Whitt, Gary Ciuba, Robert Donahoo, Avis Hewitt, and the indefatigable Bruce Gentry. As suggested above, supplies are limited, so if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the 2011 Flannery O'Connor Review, please visit our gift shop or call us at 478-454-4029.
- Mark

Friday, August 12, 2011

Falling Feathers

It's that time of year when our peafowl are molting. This morning I filled a wheelbarrow with feathers, mostly from the male, Manley Pointer. He looks pretty scraggly right now with his remaining feathers jutting out from his body at odd angles. On Wednesday while I was at the dentist's office, I happened to pick up a National Geographic (Feb. 2011) that featured a story on birds and their plumage. Accompanying this story was a picture of a peacock in full feather. The caption said that the peacock was the one bird that confounded British naturalist, Charles Darwin (pictured at right). He couldn't understand for the life of him how the bird evolved the way it did. What could possibly be the purpose of something so impractical as the long train of feathers on the male of the species? Darwin could see no utilitarian purpose. In fact, they are less than useless in that they inhibit quick flight from predators. If Darwin's theory of natural selection is true, the peacock's showy feathers should have disappeared eons ago or else the species would have disappeared. Perhaps unwilling to consider the possibility that the Creator made the species simply out of sheer delight in its beauty, Darwin appeased his curiosity with the rather pedestrian conclusion that the male has kept his plumage over time as a way of propagating the species. From my personal observation of our birds at Andalusia, I think Darwin is pushing it a little bit. Many times have I seen Manly with his shimmering feathers fanned the width of the aviary and the females pay him absolutely no attention.
- Mark

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Last Letter

Yesterday marked the 47th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death. Ever the faithful letter writer, Flannery continued to correspond with her friends almost up to the end. According to Sally Fitzgerald, O'Connor's last letters are deceptively light, even playful, in tone (see The Habit of Being, p. 560). Most correspondents didn't realize just how sick she was. Yet her chief concern throughout these final letters was finishing work on her second collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Nevertheless, as O'Connor penned these words to her friends, there is an undercurrent of sorrow over the inevitable separation that would occur. On July 28, 1964, Flannery wrote her last letter. This note to Maryat Lee, written in a "shaky, nearly illegible hand" (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 367) is in response to an anonymous crank call Lee received and reveals O'Connor's deep concern for her friend's well being:
Cowards can be just as vicious as those who declare themselves - more so. Dont take any romantic attitude toward that call. Be properly scared and go on doing what you have to do, but take the necessary precautions. And call the police. That might be a lead for them. Dont know when I'll send those stories. I've felt too bad to type them. Cheers, Tarfunk
(The Habit of Being,
p. 596)
- Mark

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sizzling Summer Sale

Come on out, folks, to our sizzling summer sale! Several of our books have been drastically reduced for clearance. If you've been waiting to get your copy of Writers of the American South now is your chance to get this book regularly priced at $35 for just $25. The ever popular guide book to writers' homes, Novel Destinations, is now on sale for the ridiculously low price of $9.95. And if that weren't enough, we've slashed the price of the beautifully photographed Georgia Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Peach State to the unheard of price of $12.95. While you're shopping, don't forget bumper stickers. These are among the most popular items in our gift shop and sell for $4 each or two for $7. How do we do it, you ask? Volume, volume, volume. So, friends, hurry on out to the Andalusia gift shop where our prices are as hot as the weather.
- Mark

Friday, July 22, 2011

"...the worst book I have ever read."

In a letter to her friend, Betty Hester, written fifty years ago today, Flannery O'Connor mentions that Houghton Mifflin had sent her the galley to the soon-to-be published novel, Clock Without Hands, by Carson McCullers (pictured at right). With tongue firmly in cheek, O'Connor remarks that "this long-awaited-by-the-faithful book will come out in September." She goes on to say that "it is the worst book I have ever read. It is incredible. If you want to read it, I will send it to you. It must signal the complete disintegration of this woman's talent. I have forgotten how the other three were, but they were at least respectable from the writing standpoint." (The Habit of Being, p. 445-446). This is classic O'Connor. If she loved something she praised it to the hilt. If she didn't care for a piece of writing it was the worst thing ever. There was no in-between. Also, Flannery had a tendency to castigate writers she grudgingly admired or was influenced by (e.g. Erskine Caldwell). Finally, it is worth pointing out as we suffer through one of the hottest summers on record, that in this letter (as in most of her correspondence), Flannery doesn't complain about the weather or even her health. What really irks her is bad writing, or what she perceives to be bad writing.
- Mark

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beat the Heat

The cartoon at the right pretty much captures what it's felt like around here for, say, the last two months. The massive heat wave reached its apex on Wednesday with a heat index of 110. As luck would have it, this was the same day novelist Ann Napolitano came to give a reading from her new book, A Good Hard Look. In order to make the house as comfortable as possible for her and our guests, we drew the window shades and shut off lights in the afternoon to try to conserve whatever coolness we could. Undaunted by the sauna-like conditions, 22 intrepid souls showed up at 7:00 to hear Ms. Napolitano's delightfully engaging presentation, which she cut a bit short due to the sweltering conditions in the dining room. After a brief Q&A session, visitors were treated to ice-cold lemonade and delicious home-baked cookies from one of our dedicated volunteers. Ms. Napolitano graciously stayed to sign books and chat with the folks. We've all been staggered by the heat, even the peafowl. Since the species is from India they normally withstand the heat better than the rest of us. Today it is cloudy and mercifully cooler so our birds are a lot happier. And so are we!
- Mark

Friday, July 8, 2011

Living with Lupus

Anyone familiar with Flannery O'Connor's life knows that the author was stricken with the disease lupus erythematosus when she was 25 years old, eventually succumbing fourteen years later. Many visitors to Andalusia ask us about the nature of this disease, how if affected O'Connor, and the medicine she took to combat it. While neither Craig nor I claim to have expertise in this field, we tell folks that lupus is an auto-immune disease that is hereditary (Flannery's father died of lupus at the age of 44, just two years after being diagnosed) and is still, to this day, incurable. One might think of it as being the opposite of HIV, where the body's immune system shuts down altogether. According to, "Lupus ... is a disease of the immune system. Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection. In lupus, however, the immune system inappropriately attacks tissues in various parts of the body. This abnormal activity leads to tissue damage and illness." For O'Connor the damaged tissue was her hip joints which made walking very difficult. As the photo to the right shows, she needed crutches to get around. It was due to the physical limitations imposed by the disease that Flannery and her mother moved to Andalusia in the first place. The family farm made it possible for them to set up housekeeping on the first floor to accommodate Flannery with her physical disabilities. Originally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, O'Connor lived with lupus much longer than anyone expected. She managed to stay alive with daily, high dose injections of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone, derived from the pituitary glands of pigs) and cortisone. Notwithstanding, she lived with quite a bit of pain. Yet one of the most remarkable features of her letters is how little she says about her personal suffering. Indeed, in typical Flannery fashion, she makes self-deprecating quips about her illness and the painful treatments she was undergoing, as in this letter to her friend, Maryat Lee: "I owe my existence and cheerful countenance to the pituitary glands of thousands of pigs butchered daily in Chicago, Illinois at the Armour packing plant. If pigs wore garments I wouldn't be worthy to kiss the hems of them." (Brad Gooch: Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 193; photo credit: Joe McTyre)
- Mark

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Good Hard Look

On July 13th, author Ann Napolitano pictured to the right (photo credit: Nicola Dove) will be at Andalusia to read from her soon-to-be published novel, A Good Hard Look, and will sign copies afterwards. All are invited to attend this reading, which will take place at 7 p.m. As implied by the title, Ms. Napolitano's book has direct relevance to, and was inspired by, the life and work of Flannery O'Connor. In fact, O'Connor is a character in the novel. Flannery O'Connor was such a fascinating individual that it's not surprising that she has been fictionalized by other authors. Those who attended our February lecture series in 2010 may recall Michael Bishop reading from his fanciful short story, "The Road Leads Back," in which even O'Connor's crutches take on a life of their own. Who knows what surprises lay in store for readers of A Good Hard Look. We look forward to welcoming Ms. Napolitano to Andalusia and hope we'll have a good turnout for her reading. For more information about this event and the author please visit our website
- Mark

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good-bye, Dr. Leland

Tomorrow morning, Andalusia will be losing a good friend when Dr. Dorothy Leland leaves to begin her tenure as chancellor of the University of California - Merced. During her seven years at the helm of Georgia College, Dr. Leland has been a strong supporter of the work of the Flannery O'Connor - Andalusia Foundation, not to mention a voice of wisdom and reason on our Board of Directors. Unlike some college presidents for whom being on a board such as ours would simply be an honorary position, Dr. Leland took an active role as one of the Foundation's directors. She worked tirelessly to strengthen ties between the university and Andalusia, and was a strong proponent of O'Connor studies and research at the school. Emblematic of this commitment was the publication by Georgia College this year of a book of Flannery O'Connor's cartoons. The January release of this book marked the first time since 1979 that there has been a full-length monograph of original work by O'Connor. Without Dr. Leland's leadership, this book may never have seen the light of day. And so, as she leaves us, we wish her well and thank her for all she has done for us. We say to her, as Flannery herself might have, "when in Merced do as you done in Milledgeville."
- Mark

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Lord Flannery O'Connor"

Just before Memorial Day I posted a blog entry about Flannery O'Connor's father that focused on his distinguished military service. With Father's Day coming up this Sunday, I thought I would say a bit more about Edward O'Connor and the close relationship he had with his daughter. When one looks at photographs of Flannery O'Connor, one is immediately struck by her physical resemblance to her father. In the photo on the right, taken when Mary Flannery was seven years old on her First Communion, she is the spitting image of Edward O'Connor. Wearing a white dress trimmed in lace, with her short brown hair combed to the side, she peers into the camera with her father's clear-eyed gaze. The affinity Flannery had for her father was more than skin-deep. Edward O'Connor adored his daughter and, according to Brad Gooch, his pride in her "could amount to infatuation." (Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 27). He participated in her world of childhood fantasy and would send her notes signed, "King of Siam." He enjoyed playing made-up games with little Flannery in which she she dubbed herself "Lord Flannery O'Connor." At the breakfast table, the elder O'Connor would sometimes find little poems or drawings from his daughter hiding under a plate or tucked in his napkin. He would then carefully put these little tokens of affection into his billfold and show them off to colleagues during the day. One cannot overstate the importance of Edward O'Connor in Flannery's life, and it is my hope that future biographers will amplify the relationship between Flannery and her father, whom she affectionately called "Ed."
- Mark

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

One of Flannery O'Connor's treasured friendships was with Louise Abbot, a housewife and aspiring writer who met O'Connor for the first time in the spring of 1957. Abbot, her lawyer-husband, and their small children lived in Louisville, Georgia, a small town just 60 miles outside of Milledgeville. O'Connor's and Abbot's friendship began when Abbot wrote a letter of introduction. Since she had already published a piece in Mademoiselle magazine, Abbot mulled over representing herself as a journalist in order to set up an initial meeting with the famous author. Fortunately, she decided not to follow through with this ruse and just be herself. Flannery wrote back that she would be delighted to meet Abbot, grateful that she did not pose as a journalist because, as Flannery confessed, she was "deathly afraid of the tribe." (The Habit of Being p. 205). And so on a wet Thursday afternoon in April, Louise Abbot drove up the long red clay driveway leading to Andalusia. Abbot was surprised to find Flannery standing on the porch dressed in blue jeans, an untucked plaid shirt, and loafers. Abbot was immediately struck by this down-home lack of pretension, not to mention O'Connor's "very expressive" blue eyes (Brad Gooch, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 291). Abbot also picked up on some tension between Flannery and her mother, but other than that, the two new friends enjoyed their time together chatting in the high-backed rocking chairs on the front porch. They talked about religion (Abbot came from a family of reformed Presbyterians and was surprised to learn O'Connor was Catholic), writing, and their common girlhoods in 1930s Savannah. As Abbot was getting ready to leave that day, Flannery invited her to "come back as often as you can." (Gooch, p. 292)

Louise Abbot is a lovely lady who still lives in Louisville, Georgia. She graciously allowed the young cinematographer, Rob Yates, to interview her earlier this spring. We are fortunate to have this fascinating footage on our website. To view the clip, follow this link
- Mark

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pondering the Pond

For most of the past week temperatures in middle Georgia have been hovering in the triple digit range. On Wednesday, we tied a record for the day set in 1953 of 100 degrees. It's hard to imagine how people survived such heat in those days before air conditioning. Remarkably, there is no mention of the heat wave in O'Connor's letters from 1953 (though the entries from that year in The Habit of Being are relatively few). What I did come across that indirectly relates to all of this are two letters the author wrote to her friends Robert and Sally Fitzgerald where she talks about her mother's decision to construct a pond for the cattle, the one visitors to Andalusia see today. In the first letter (undated: Summer 1953, p. 59-60), Flannery mentions that her mother decided to build a pond for the "cows to lie down in and cool off in the summertime." She goes on to say that the government requirements are such that the pond "has to go down two feet straight to keep from breeding mosquitoes but she don't want it that way for fear the cows will break their legs getting in." It seems Regina O'Connor was quite a worrier. In the second letter (undated: 1953, p. 61) Flannery mentions that the the pond is finished, but her mother "says she's not going to have but four feet of water in it because if anybody drowns she wants to be able to go in and get them out without draining it. Practical."
- Mark

Friday, May 27, 2011

An American Patriot

With Memorial Day just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to say a few words today about Flannery O'Connor's father, Edward. Besides being the loving and devoted father of the author, O'Connor was an American patriot who served our country with distinction in France during the First World War. He was born in Savannah and educated at Benedictine College, a military prep school in the city. Following graduation from St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, he enlisted in the armed forces of the United States. Between May of 1916 and August, 1917, O'Connor served in the Georgia National Guard, patrolling the New Mexico border under the command of General John J. Pershing. Between April 1918 and May 1919, O'Connor was stationed overseas as a member of the 82nd Division of the American Expeditionary Force, the famed "All Americans" out of Camp Gordon, Georgia. For his valor in combat, Lieutenant Edward O'Connor was awarded a World War I Victory Medal and Victory Button. Following his stint in the service, O'Connor became highly involved in the American Legion, serving as commander of Chatham Post 36 and chairman of the Veterans Council of Administration. As Commander of the American Legion for the entire state of Georgia, Edward O'Connor traveled a great deal and made speeches, which made his daughter's heart swell with pride. The feeling was mutual. When O'Connor would go on speaking engagements, he carried in his billfold some of Flannery's early artistic creations, usually drawings of chickens, which he showed off to his colleagues in the American Legion. For more detailed biographical information on Edward O'Connor, check out Brad Gooch's biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor as well as Sarah Gordon's A Literary Guide to Flannery O'Connor's Georgia. Finally, please note that Andalusia will be closed on Monday, May 30th, for Memorial Day. Have a safe and restful holiday.
- Mark

Thursday, May 19, 2011

PODS in Place

Since work will soon begin on the restoration of the Hill house, it is necessary for us to remove all the furnishings and store them on site temporarily during the construction phase of the project. Next Wednesday, a team from Allen Construction Co. will move the contents of the house into these PODS storage units that were delivered to the farm a few days ago. Architects from the firm of Lord, Aeck, and Sargent were also here this week to survey the house in preparation for the restoration work that will take place. If you are visiting the farm this summer, please be assured that visitor services will not be disrupted during construction.
- Mark

Friday, May 13, 2011

Unwelcome Visitors

The guy you see on the right is a black rat snake. These creatures are non-poisonous and fairly docile, unless disturbed. In fact, they are beneficial to have at the farm to the extent that they help keep the rodent population down. On Monday, I found one of these snakes languidly stretched out in the back of the peacocks' coop. Our birds were pretty wound up by his presence and so, with the help of a rake, I managed to get him out of the aviary. The next day one of our visitors (of the non-reptilian variety) told me there was another huge snake in the aviary. By the time I was able to go out to check on the situation he had vanished. Why are we now seeing these snakes? Most likely it's because one of our hens is laying eggs and, for a snake, a peacock egg is like filet mignon. If anyone out there knows how we might ward off these unwelcome visitors, we'd love to hear from you. This is a good time to remind our guests about the presence of snakes at Andalusia. In the unlikely event you should happen to come across one, quietly walk away and leave it alone since the snake is going to be more frightened of you than you are of him. Also, when you're here we encourage you to stay on the mown areas of the property. You will be less likely to have a close encounter with one of our slithery friends.

- Mark

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dr. Doolittle?

Besides writing this blog, one of my duties here at Andalusia is taking care of our peafowl. Every day I clean out the aviary and make sure the birds have plenty of food and fresh water. I usually finish up by giving them one of their favorite treats - cracked corn or spinach. For the last week or two the birds have not been all that interested since they have been getting their fill of the mulberries that have been dropping from the tree above the aviary. Today, as you can see, they were more receptive. Now, I'm no Dr. Doolittle, but over the course of the last year, the birds have gotten used to me and are comfortable enough having me around that they will actually take food from my hand. It used to be that only Manley Pointer (the male) was bold enough to do this. Lately, however, one of the females (Joy Hulga or Mary Grace - we can't tell them apart) has gotten up enough nerve to get in on the act, too. We're wondering if her sudden interest isn't due to the fact that she may be pregnant and needs the extra nutrients the spinach provides. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't find her sitting on a clutch of eggs some day soon. Stay tuned for further developments.
- Mark

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mug Shot

And you thought I was going to post a mug shot of the Misfit! No, what you see pictured here is a different kind of mug, which also happens to be one of the newest and best-selling items in our gift shop. Without a doubt, we sold more of them during the O'Connor conference two weeks ago than any other souvenir. The mugs are hand-crafted for us by the Deneen Pottery Co. in St. Paul, Minnesota. They are available in two different designs and come in violet and peacock green. Because the process of making these mugs is so time consuming and labor intensive (24 pairs of hands touch each mug during production), they are slightly more expensive than our other coffee mugs, but well worth the $15.95 price. They are lead and cadmium free, as well as being microwave, dishwasher, oven, and freezer safe. What's more, the manufacturer assures us that the mugs are very, very durable. If you are interested in buying one (or more) of these unique Andalusia mementos, stop by our gift shop or give us a call at 478-454-4029.

- Mark

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fun Field Trips

Where is that bus going with all those happy children? To Andalusia, of course. It's that time of year again when we get lots of school groups. This week we have welcomed busloads of children from some of our local elementary schools. Today the grounds are abuzz with the joyful sounds of children from Creekside Elementary exploring the farm and learning something about the famous author that used to live here. As you can tell by our website we take our commitment to education seriously. There is so much for children to learn at Andalusia. While admittedly a five-year-old's appreciation of O'Connor's literature is limited, there is so much else here to capture a child's imagination, especially the animals one frequently encounters at this farm. The children are particularly fascinated with the peafowl and the birds, for their part, seem to be be equally intrigued by the children. They 're not sure what to make of 176 kindergartners running around the back yard...and neither are we! At any rate, we hope you have a happy Easter.

- Mark

Friday, April 15, 2011

Startling Figures

This past Wednesday, on a picture post card evening, we hosted a reception for all participants in the Flannery O'Connor Conference that is currently going on at Georgia College. Many of our guests sat in on presentations by Joy Farmer and Catherine Emanuel. Others watched a screening of the movie, The Displaced Person, that was preceded by a talk by Katy Leedy of Marquette University. Still others, as you can see in this photo, enjoyed the conviviality of the front porch. A good time was had by all 79 attending the event. The O'Connor conference wraps up tomorrow night at Georgia College with the Dave Perkins concert. Tickets are available for advance purchase at Andalusia and will also be available the night of the show. Finally, time is running out for bidding on the signed, first edition that we are auctioning off at Andalusia. The deadline for getting your bid in is tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.
- Mark

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Good Book Is Hard to Find

...especially if it's a signed, first edition of Flannery O'Connor's short story collection, A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Believe me, folks, I went to the web this week looking for one and there just aren't any out there. I checked the major used book sellers, e.g. Abebooks, Alibris, etc., and you simply can't find this volume anywhere. Fortunately, through the generous donation of one of our Friends, we are auctioning off a signed, yes signed, first edition of A Good Man Is Hard to Find at Andalusia next week. This silent auction will coincide with the Flannery O'Connor conference at Georgia College (April 13-16). Bidding on this rare book starts at $1,000 and must be done in person at Andalusia between 4:00 Wednesday afternoon and 3:00 Saturday afternoon. Autographed copies of O'Connor's works are rare. She just didn't sign that many books. So this is a unique opportunity for you to acquire a real collector's item. If you have any questions or would like more information on the auction, please call us at 478-454-4029. Whether you bid on the book or not, please feel free to visit us next week.
- Mark

Friday, April 1, 2011

Life's a Picnic Andalusia. And what could be more perfect than packing a picnic basket and coming out to the farm on a beautiful spring day like this? We have picnic tables set up east of the main house and just off the nature trail. Or you might want to do as these visitors last week and spread a cloth on the front lawn to enjoy lunch al fresco amidst the unparalleled beauty of Andalusia. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be sunny and clear with temperatures climbing back to the upper 70s by Saturday. An ideal time, I'd say, to pack up some sandwiches and come out to the farm.
- Mark

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grand Re-opening

In honor of Flannery O'Connor's 86th birthday tomorrow, we will be re-opening the upstairs of the main house. The upstairs area, consisting of two bedrooms with a bathroom between, was used for putting up overnight guests. Among the noteworthy visitors that stayed there was Flannery's publisher, Robert Giroux. From the windows in this bedroom, visitors will be treated to some magnificent views of the farm. Though the upstairs plumbing is no longer functioning, the bathroom will also be open to the public. The room on the east side of the house, which the O'Connors used for storage, remains closed. Special thanks to our dedicated volunteer, Judy, who spent two days cleaning and scrubbing the upstairs in order to get it ready for our grand re-opening tomorrow.
- Mark

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh

Happy St. Patrick's Day from all of us here at Andalusia! To commemorate the occasion I decided to write a brief post about Flannery O'Connor's Irish ancestors. Flannery's attitude to her Irish roots is a mixed bag. On the one hand, O'Connor dropped her first name when she went off to the University of Iowa because she said Mary Flannery sounded like an Irish washerwoman. On the other hand, it was from her Irish ancestors that she was handed the Catholic faith that was so important to her. With a name like O'Connor, most people naturally assume that Flannery's Irish lineage came to her from her father's side of the family. While that is true, her maternal ancestors were Irish, too. Flannery's great-grandfather, Hugh Donnelly Treanor, emigrated from county Tipperary in 1824. He settled in Milledgeville and set up a grist mill on the Oconee River. It was in Hugh Treanor's hotel room that mass was first said in Milledgeville. After he died, his widow, Johannah Harty Treanor donated the land on which Sacred Heart Catholic Church was built in 1874. One of their daughters, Kate, married Peter J. Cline, a prosperous dry-goods store owner in Milledgeville who was also Irish. When she died, Cline married her sister, Margaret Ida, and it was from this union that sixteen children were born, including Flannery's mother, Regina. Regina Cline married Edward O'Connor of Savannah in 1922. Like his wife, he had Irish roots. His grandfather emigrated from Ireland in 1851 and established a livery stable on Broughton St. in Savannah. Yet, it is from neither the Cline nor the O'Connor families that Flannery received her name. She was named for her cousin Katie Semmes' mother, Mary Ellen Flannery, the wife of decorated Confederate army officer, John Flannery. The Flannerys were (you guessed it)....Irish! For more genealogical information on the O'Connor family please consult Brad Gooch's fine biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.
- Mark

Friday, March 11, 2011

How March Marched In

The picture at the right illustrates how the month of March began here in middle Georgia. Despite a high wind advisory yesterday, we had 38 visitors who braved the gusts and brisk temperatures. The windy weather prevailed through the night, too, and at one point knocked out power to the main house. We're up and running now and the day is bright and clear. It's also expected to warm up through the afternoon which should make our peafowl happy. We've yet to see any eggs in the aviary this spring, but I don't think it will be too much longer. More bird news...yesterday one of the females took some spinach from my hand. The male has been doing this for some time now, but yesterday I was able to coax his mate to do likewise. The other female is much more reticent. She is obviously the low bird in their pecking order and usually stands back and lets the others eat first. In preparation for the O'Connor Conference in April (13-16), one of our dedicated volunteers has been painting the chairs on the front porch and do they ever look good. We're also busy cleaning the upstairs guest bedroom and are hoping that it will be open to the public by mid April, if not sooner. Speaking of the O'Connor conference, tickets for the April 16th concert by noted blues guitarist, Dave Perkins, are now on sale at Andalusia for $15 each. The performance will take place at Georgia College. For more information on the Dave Perkins concert or to find out more about the conference, go to our website and click the news and events tab.
- Mark

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When in Cincinnati, do as you done in Pittsburgh

Last Friday while my wife, Judy, and I were in Cincinnati visiting family, we had the misfortune to be stopped at a red light in the downtown area late at night. As we were sitting at the intersection an SUV pulled up beside our car and the driver motioned for me to roll down the window. After I did so I could see that he was wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers stocking hat. He asked me what was the meaning of my bumper sticker, "When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville." Judy responded to the intoxicated man that it was too complex to go into. He followed up by asking if it had anything to do with Steelers' quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who allegedly assaulted a 20 year old woman in a Milledgeville night club last March. Judy replied that this was a quote from Flannery O'Connor and was written long before Roethlisberger was born, the implication being of course that there was no relationship between my bumper sticker and the seedy incident that occurred in this town last year. Fortunately, there was no more to this exchange because the light turned green and we drove off. It's sad that the only knowledge some people have of Milledgeville is a pro football player's malfeasance at a local bar and not the great author who lived here half a century ago.
- Mark

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Come Sit a Spell

Visitors to Andalusia are certainly aware that our gift shop carries more books by and about Flannery O'Connor than just about any place on earth. What is less well known is that we also sell high quality art photography of the farm, a sample of which is shown at the right. This aptly named picture of our front porch, Come Sit a Spell, was taken by Milledgeville photographer, Maryllis Wolfgang. The framed and signed print sells for $200. For those with smaller budgets, we have notecards with the same picture in the gift shop for $3.00 each. As a good friend of the Foundation, Mrs. Wolfgang donates a portion of the proceeds from every picture she sells at Andalusia to us. If you are interested in learning more about Maryllis and her art, please visit her website We think that you'll agree that her photos have a quality that captures the spirit of Andalusia. Finally, on a different topic, please note that the final lecture in February will take place this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Milledgeville, not at Andalusia. The lecture by composer Clyde Tipton starts at 4:30 and will feature musical excerpts from his mass for Flannery O'Connor. Refreshments will follow in the church's social hall. Please join us for this unique performance.
- Mark

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Sneak Peek

Just when we were on track to have the coldest winter in Georgia's history, we were thrown a bit of a curve this week. Sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s have brought us a much welcomed preview of spring. As I turned into the driveway this morning I noticed yellow daffodils blooming along the bank of the front pasture. Elsewhere on the farm, white narcissus are popping up. If you're contemplating a trip to Andalusia, this week-end would be a perfect time to visit. Not only is the fabulous weather going to continue, but on Sunday at 3:00 p.m., Lain Shakespeare, executive director of the Wren's Nest in Atlanta, will give a talk about the on-going restoration work and innovative programming happening at the home of Joel Chandler Harris. We hope to see you then.
- Mark

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday FOCA!

The cold, dreary winter continues, but here at Andalusia we have a lot to celebrate. This coming Monday marks the tenth anniversary of the incorporation of the Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation. Because much restoration work needed to be done on the main house, the property was not open to the public until 2003 when we began offering tours on a limited basis. The following year, we established regular visiting hours, and since that time, have welcomed 24,334 visitors to the O'Connor family home. With your continuing patronage we hope to keep this place going for many years to come.
- Mark

Friday, February 4, 2011

Great Grant!

On a week that has been mostly cold, wet, and dreary, we got a little of sunshine this past Monday when we were notified by the National Park Service that we are the recipients of a Saving America's Treasures grant to help us rescue and restore the Hill House. The $120,000 is by far the largest grant ever awarded The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation in its ten year history. This major funding will go far in helping us preserve an important part of Andalusia's history. Speaking of sunshine, the week-end is supposed to be clear and nice. If you're in the area, come on out Sunday afternoon from 3-5 as we kick-off our February Lecture Series with a talk by O'Connnor scholar, Bruce Gentry, and Bill Reeves with the University of Georgia Printing Dept., who will discuss the just-released book, The Cartoons of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College. If you join us for this event, I promise you will be home in plenty of time for another important kick-off.
- Mark

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Dumb Ox

Today, on the Church's calendar, we celebrate the feast day St. Thomas Aquinas, Flannery O'Connor's favorite saint. By the time she finished college Flannery possessed an impressive knowledge of the thirteenth century saint fondly dubbed "the dumb ox." Later, as an adult, she would read portions of Aquinas's magnum opus, The Summa Theologica, before retiring for the night. In a letter to Betty Hester she quipped, "I read it [the Summa] for about twenty minutes every night before I go to bed. If my mother were to come in during this process and say, 'Turn off the light. It's late,' I with lifted finger and broad bland beatific expression, would reply, 'On the contrary, I answer that the light, being external and limitless cannot be turned off. Shut your eyes.'" (FOC to Betty Hester, August 9, 1955, CW, 945) O'Connor's devotion to St. Thomas also found its way into her fiction most memorably in the short stories, "A Temple of the Holy Ghost" (where there are numerous allusions to Aquinas) and "The Comforts of Home" where the main character, Thomas, chases a "nimpermaniac," Star Drake, from his room by "holding the chair in front of him like an animal trainer driving out a dangerous cat." (CW p.574). According to legend, St. Thomas once chased away a prostitute with a red-hot poker. Regarding this incident, Flannery remarked, "It would be fashionable today to be in sympathy with the woman, but I am in sympathy with St. Thomas." (FOC to Betty Hester, August 9, 1955, CW, 946.)
- Mark

Friday, January 21, 2011

Monastic Meditations

It's a clear, crisp morning here in Milledgeville. Quite a contrast to the drizzly, gray days earlier in the week when my wife, Judy, and I attended a four day Flannery O'Connor retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Georgia. The retreat, led by Victor Kramer, professor emeritus at Georgia State, focused on how O'Connor's fiction allows contemporary readers to perceive the presence of God's grace in their lives and in the world. With charm and wit, Prof. Kramer demonstrated how O'Connor's characters are offered the freedom to accept or reject God's gifts. There are some who do (e.g. Harry/Bevel in The River) and others who don't (e.g. Tom T. Shiftlet in The Life You Save May Be Your Own). Yet, even in the bleakest of her stories where the characters reject grace, there still remains a glimmer of hope for redemption. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Victor Kramer, I would encourage you to do so. He is absolutely delightful. It is highly appropriate that this retreat was held at the monastery since Flannery and her mother were good friends with some of the monks there, most notably Fr. Paul Bourne and the abbot at the time, Dom Augustine Moore (who also administered last rites to Flannery just before she died). The O'Connors visited the monastery many times between 1961 and 1964. As a sign of the affection Flannery had for the monks, she gave them several of her peacocks which remained at the monastery for about fifteen years until finally their noise created so much of a disturbance that they disappeared mysteriously one night.
- Mark