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

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