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

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