Friday, September 28, 2012

Lord Weary

Though not a bridge player myself, I do occasionally glance at The Aces on Bridge column in the newspaper because it often contains some interesting quotes.  Today, for instance, I came across this quote from the poet Robert Lowell: "I am tired.  Everyone's tired of my turmoil."  Poor Robert Lowell.  The writer suffered terribly from manic depression and his inner "turmoil" greatly concerned his friends, including Flannery O'Connor.  Lowell, who Flannery got to know during her stay at Yadoo, recognized her genius at once and encouraged her in her writing.  He also introduced her to fellow poet Robert Fitzgerald and his wife, Sally, who were to become so crucial in O'Connor's life and career.  Equally profound was Lowell's introduction of her to Robert Giroux, a junior editor at Harcourt Brace who later would add Flannery to Harcourt's growing stable of stars - including such luminaries as Jean Stafford (Lowell's first wife), T.S. Eliot, Hannah Arendt, and Robert Lowell himself.  As the years went by Flannery became increasingly worried about her friend's mental disintegration.  Yet through it all, according to Brad Gooch, Cal Lowell would "remain one of the rare souls for whom [Flannery] felt a lifelong affection." (Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, p. 6).
- Mark

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Here!

A couple months ago I mentioned in this blog that the log-awaited book Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons had just been published by Fantagraphics.  What I didn't say was that this handsome book is now on sale at the Andalusia gift shop for the modest price of $22.99.  A real bargain for a hard-bound book full of not only Flannery's cartoons, but also photographs from her time at Georgia State College for Women, and interpretive essays on the cartoons by Barry Moser and the book's editor, Kelly Gerald.  According to Vanna Le of Forbes Magazine, "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons has just the right amount of charm you would expect from a young and witty O'Connor. But it's more than just a book for laughs -- it offers some insight into O'Connor's personal life as well as her mockery towards the pretensions of her social environment."  Call us today (478-454-4029) to order your copy. 
- Mark

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Man of the Hour

In all things O'Connor, the man of the hour is without a doubt Bill Sessions.  The retired Georgia State University professor and Andalusia board member has just finished the authorized biography of Flannery O'Connor, Stalking Joy, which will likely be released next year.  As if that massive project weren't enough for a retiree, Dr. Sessions keeps up an active speaking schedule.  On October 25th, he will be the keynote speaker at Emory University's Aquinas Center.  The title of his lecture is "Flannery O'Connor and Freud: the Meaning of Life in Death."  About the subject matter, one can imagine Flannery chiding her friend, "Oh Billy, there you go again."  Nevertheless, the talk promises to be as interesting as it is provocative.  For more information check out our website or the Aquinas Center's After this lecture the indefatigable Dr. Sessions will be presenting at the University of Louisiana - Lafayette Nov. 9-10.  For more information on this event click here.  Though he was sometimes teased mercilessly by O'Connor and Betty Hester (Bill once said that he was Flannery's "pinata"), there are few who have done as much to promote O'Connor's legacy than Bill Sessions. 
- Mark

Friday, September 7, 2012

Nobel Notable

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned in this blog that, despite the fact that I graduated with a degree in English in 1980, it took me nearly thirty years to get around to reading Flannery O'Connor.  What a big gap in my literary education that was!  Just as mysteriously appalling, we never covered John Steinbeck (pictured) in the undergraduate curriculum!  Don't ask me why, but I can take some comfort in the fact that apparently O'Connor hadn't read him either (as she confesses to Betty Hester in a letter dated Aug. 21, 1955 (The Habit of Being, p. 95).  But that didn't stop her from making a snarky comment to Hester when Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962: "Can you fancy Steinbeck getting the Nobel prize.  John O'Hara will be getting it next." (The Habit of Being, p. 498).   One would like to think that someone as well read as O'Connor would have at least dipped into Steinbeck a bit before dismissing him so easily (and perhaps she did).  Maybe Flannery was secretly hoping that she was going to be the recipient of the prestigious prize that year.  Who knows, but no reasonable person can seriously question the Nobel committee's choice fifty years ago.  Steinbeck, for his part, was modest about his talent as a writer and so humble he wouldn't have minded it at all if someone he felt worthier were chosen e.g. Al Capp, the creator of the satirical comic strip Lil Abner who Steinbeck declared was "possibly the best writer in the world today." (ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: Biography: Al Capp 2- A CAPPital Offense. May 2008).
- Mark