Friday, July 26, 2013

More Irish than the Irish

In last week's post I mentioned the O'Connor conference in Ireland next year.  While the conference is taking place in the author's ancestral homeland, it may surprise readers of this blog to learn that Flannery's opinions of  Ireland and its people were rather mixed.  Her friend Ashley Brown said Flannery "had a  rather low opinion of Ireland.  She called Blarney Castle 'Baloney Castle.'" (At Home With Flannery O'Connor: An Oral History, p.113).  In a letter to Janet McKane, Flannery confessed, "I have never been greatly tied emotionally or sentimentally to my own Irish background.  The Irish in America are sometimes more Irish than the Irish and I suppose some of my indifference is a reaction against that." (The Habit of Being, p. 531).  No doubt Flannery was thinking of all the cliched St. Patrick's Day celebrations she had witnessed in Savannah growing up. "I was brought up in Savannah where there was a colony of the Over-Irish.  They have the biggest St. Patrick's Day parade anywhere and generally go nutty on the subject."   In this same letter, however, she goes on to add that she finds the people of Ireland lovely.  "On the other hand, all the Irish from Ireland that I have ever seen have been charming."  That is how I found them to be when I visited the country 33 years ago, and I bet foreign visitors to next year's conference will too. 
- Mark

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Mystery of Place

Here's something that's sure to stir interest amongst the readers of this blog: the details for the next international Flannery O'Connor conference have been announced. Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Place will take place next July 24-26, 2014 at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland.  Presenters already lined up  include Gina Ochsner, John F. Deane, and Brenda Bynum.  Among the highlights of the conference are an opening night reception, optional dinner at Johnnie Fox's Irish Pub on Friday, a dramatic and entertaining reading by Brenda Bynum on the final night of the conference, and much, much more.  Ireland is certainly one of the most beautiful countries in the world and what a wonderful opportunity this would be for Flannery's fans to participate in what promises to be a most stimulating conference in the author's ancestral homeland.  For more information click here.
- Mark

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fly Peacock, Fly

On my way into work on Tuesday I was listening to NPR's morning show, Performance Today.  One of the pieces that day was a work I had never heard before, "The Peacock," by the twentieth century Hungarian composer, Zoltan Kodaly.  It is a  theme and variations for orchestra based on an old Hungarian folksong called "Fly Peacock, Fly."  If I remember correctly, the song tells the story of a peacock who visits a prisoner who is longing to be released so that he can be reunited with his love.  Each day the peacock flies to the prisoner's cell and serenades him.  The peacock's song sustains the prisoner in  his ordeal and gives him hope.  When I heard the Kodaly piece I immediately thought of Flannery and how her peafowl must have sustained her during her 13-year bout with lupus.  While the birds themselves might have afforded her some solace, I doubt their shrill cacophony did  - keep in mind that at one time she had as many as 50 of these critters out here.  Still, I think Flannery would have been delighted to know that a composer had written a piece based on the peacock's song (a piece that at the time was as controversial as some of Flannery's own stories). For those interested in hearing how Kodaly set this to music click on the Performance Today website for July 9th.  Fred Child's introduction of the piece is entertaining and worthwhile, too. 
- Mark

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Coming this Fall

When I got hooked on Flannery O'Connor four years ago, I tried to read everything about her that I could get my hands on.  One of the more helpful books, was Flannery O'Connor's Georgia by Barbara McKenzie.  What drew me to this book was the way it seemed to capture in word and photograph the fictional world of Flannery O'Connor - which wasn't so fictional after all!  The photographs of preachers seized by the Holy Spirit, full immersion baptisms in muddy creeks, and fire and brimstone highway signs, evoke so well the cultural milieu of Hazel Motes, Francis Marion Tarwater, and Mrs. Greenleaf.  Psychiatrist Robert Coles wrote a splendid introduction that provides the context for this collection of vintage photographs that has sadly been out of print for years.  Recently, however,  the University of Georgia Press announced that they will be bringing it back in the fall.  We look forward to carrying the new edition in our gift shop as soon as it rolls off the press. 
- Mark