Sunday, December 20, 2015

Flannery Fandom

During my first visit to Andalusia last summer, one of the biggest surprises to me was the containers of dirt for sale in the gift shop. T-shirts, postcards, books—these I expected. Even the peacock feathers made sense. But dirt? I’m told that when they didn’t sell it, fans would dig it up themselves. Or try to steal signs, fauna, scraps of wood—any sort of material souvenir of O’Connor’s home has been fair game. What do we make of such weird fandom? Flannery O’Connor attracts serious scholars. The annual Flannery O’Connor and Other Southern Women Writers Conference reflects the scholarship that her work continues to elicit. A quick library database search returns nearly fifty peer-reviewed articles which have been published about her work in the past three years, and I can only imagine that in the next few years, the attention garnered by the newly available archives at Emory University will only cause this output to increase.

However, she also attracts serious fans—some scholars, but many not. It’s well known that artists including U2, Bruce Springsteen, and REM have cited her as an influence (and I have written elsewhere about her surprising influence on punk music). There are novels such as Ann Napolitano’s 2011 novel A Good Hard Look, which imagines O’Connor’s life in Milledgeville and her effect on her neighbors there, as well as Carlene Bauer’s 2013 novel Frances and Bernard, a fictional “what-might-have-been” account of her intense friendship with poet Robert Lowell. And then there’s the annual birthday parade at O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, Georgia. Every year, to commemorate her birthday in March, people assemble at Lafayette Square in Savannah in costume to parade, play music, and generally make a joyful noise in appreciation of O’Connor’s life and work.

There are people in minister’s hats and gorilla suits, in tribute to characters in Wise Blood; there are costumes with peacock themes; and there are plenty of people dressed as O’Connor herself, imitating her hairstyle, glasses, and the 1950s dresses so many of us know from her photographs.
I can only imagine how ridiculous O’Connor herself would have found such shenanigans. Even when she was alive, she had a wry attitude toward what she referred to as the “lunatic fringe” of her fandom. Complaining about a letter she had received asking for an autographed photo, O’Connor observed that “I feel that since I have now reached the lunatic fringe there is no place left for me to go.” 1

Although authors do come from everywhere, it’s tempting to think that artists emerging from Milledgeville are unlikely, I suppose. Visit a city, and every third barista has written a novel. Visit Milledgeville, and you see a cute college town: less hipster than Athens; less self-conscious, perhaps, than Oxford, Mississippi. There’s nothing unusual about Milledgeville water, and unlike (so many) other Southern writers, O’Connor is not known for her drinking—so, the argument that it’s something in the water of central Georgia that produced O’Connor is a hard sell. What Georgia does have is its dirt—even the Georgia Writers’ Association has an annual Red Clay Writers’ Conference. And
although it has become clichéd to speak of the centrality of place in Southern writing, I believe that O’Connor paid enough attention to it in her work—whether essays such as “The Regional Writer and His Country” or The Grotesque in Southern Fiction” or stories such as “The Displaced Person” or “A Circle in the Fire”—that it’s safe to say that the land occupied a certain amount of her writerly attention.

But enough to merit its commoditization? Perhaps. Fans of living authors will camp out for hours for a few minutes in the presence of their hero. To have your name articulated in speech and in an autograph implies an added layer of intimacy to that you already feel you have, from living with the novel or poem or song your hero has created. It feels like you’ve forged an even stronger connection with the novel or poem or song that you love. What, then, about the artists we can’t wait in line to see? That’s a big reason, I believe, that such superfandom occurs.

When we (and yes, I’ll admit “we” here, as I have been known to emulate O’Connor’s sense of style) dress up like O’Connor and her characters—or want dirt from Andalusia—I think that we’re trying to similarly forge more intimate connections to things we have strong emotional reactions to. It’s more complicated than “the things that we love”—no one just “loves” O’Connor’s work. We’re struck by it, challenged by it, and feel confused by it. So we keep returning to it.

We literary tourists want to inhabit the outer versions of the worlds we have built in our heads. We want to connect physically with the imaginations with which we’ve already connected. O’Connor herself understood the desire for souvenirs—she often sent her friends and admirers peacock feathers, whose symbolism represented her own values.2 I hope, then, that she would forgive our desire for dirt.

1. Apparently, parades of people in sweater sets and pearls or gorilla costumes were beyond even her own active imagination. 

2. If you haven’t read her essay “King of Birds” about her fascination with peacocks, go do so now. In fact, even if you have read it, go read it again. And then listen to REM’s song with the same title.

Monica Miller is the Assistant Director of the Writing and Communication Program and a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Tech. Her current work focuses on the figure of the ugly woman in southern literature.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Keeping Andalusia Beautiful

Fresh off a wildly successful 11th Annual Bluegrass Festival, the Executive Director of Keep Milledgeville-Baldwin Beautiful, takes to the blog this week to describe the efforts that his organization took to make the festival a minimal-waste event.  Thanks to KMBB, an event that drew nearly 600 people had a cumulative 4 bags of waste taken to the local landfill. Thanks Andy!

There are many things all people have in common, and of those, having a good time is a favorite. All across our planet people like to get together for food, music and all sorts of fellowship. Some rituals date back millennia, and new traditions are created everyday.

In planning a celebration, of any sort, people can focus on sustainability. Specifically, people can strive to reduce their impact on our planet by planning minimal waste events. The amount of fun doesn't have to be sacrificed to make an event more environmentally responsible. In fact, the fun can be continued afterwards in knowing that your impact on the earth was minimized.

Andalusia hosted its 11th annual Bluegrass Festival as a minimal waste event.  The food and beverage vendors used recyclable materials and Keep Milledgeville Baldwin Beautiful provided recycling bins for their disposal. Volunteers were on site to help facilitate. In addition to providing a family-friendly event featuring world-class musicians, hopefully this year's festival will inspire others planning events to consider more responsible waste management options.

So after banjos and mandolins are put away, we can whistle and hum those tunes in the months to come knowing that the fun had on the farm did not come with a hidden cost.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hidden in the Corners

When people come into the "big house" here at Andalusia, their first stop isn't difficult to predict: the sign-in sheet and donation box (at least, if I have any influence to offer).  The second attraction is close by: Flannery's room. Cordoned off as it is, there are a few things of hers that are difficult to see; some are really hidden in plain sight.

The eye, upon first looking into Flannery's room, is drawn, of course, to the typewriter on the desk, located directly behind the wardrobe.  I admire anyone who can write the alphabet, much less enduring literature, while facing a closet.   There's a method to that madness, though: sunlight streams onto that desk over the course of the daylight hours thanks to the array of windows on the front wall of the room. That layout may be practical, but I imagine it no doubt helps one focus: facing the windows would have no doubt hindered the reflections necessary to find divine truth in Flannery's own life and those of her characters.

Several years ago, my predecessor in this space, Mark, catalogued Flannery's record collection here.  Flannery certainly loved her classical music.  She and I have high-church choral music in common.  The exception to all the classical is Souer Sourire, Jeanne Decker at her birth and the Singing Nun to Americans, who had an international hit in 1962 with "Dominique." "Sister Smile," as her stage name is translated, took her own life in 1985, citing severe financial difficulties. In order to reinvigorate her musical career and pay off some debts, Decker released a heavily synthesized, disco version of "Dominique" in 1982. This re-recording failed to gain traction.  I've no doubt Flannery would, had she lived to hear it, have offered up some trenchant commentary on why the new version of the old hit didn't serve its purpose.

The mantel has some intriguing pieces that are either hidden by the wardrobe in the middle of the room or are too small to be seen clearly from the doorway. A picture of Flannery from what appears to be her late teenage years and a pill bottle tell a story all too succinctly of her time in Milledgeville: school and then a return several years later due to lupus. There are books, too, of course: a series of paperback novels that aren't nearly as well-used as the Aquinas and Bible on the nightstand.

I hope you're inspired to linger a little while more at Flannery's doorway on your next visit to Andalusia; you'll likely spot something I've passed over or be reminded of a passage from your favorite story that has slipped back in the recesses of my memory.  We look forward to seeing you!

--Daniel Wilkinson's blog entries are sponsored by James Keller & Sons Marmalade, available where all fine jams and jellies are sold in 1862.  Keller & Sons: Only the Best for the Best Visitor Services Bon Vivants

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Cleaning Out Party

A recent Monday found me at Andalusia at an ungodly early hour to take stock of an upstairs room with my fellow staff members and a local moving company.  Needless to say, I did not envision that my unofficial title of Bon Vivant would entail profuse sweating and heavy lifting, but such is the price of a view of Andalusia and of Flannery that few have the privilege to get.  As with the cow barn, equipment shed, and other uncurated spaces (to use a $5 term from the museum studies crowd), the contents of that upstairs room were fascinating. 

Chairs and bedframes reminded us of the people who lived here before and after Flannery's time. Bank statements showed the real, business side of a farm that is too frequently remembered only for the outrageous fictional events that took place there: a prosthesis theft in "Good Country People" or an unfortunate goring in "Greenleaf."  Dishes and kitchenware brought back memories of the designs and color schemes of the previous century and made me wonder how people could drink coffee from something that pink and not be blinded. We certainly felt Regina O'Connor's presence as we found several bolts of fabric that would have allowed her to ply her seamstress talents.  

Beyond the furniture and other household goods up there, I found myself taken in even by their containers.  Copies of the Union-Recorder that protected the more fragile items told stories of a Milledgeville gone by in advertisements for Goldstein's on Wayne St., Belk's on Hancock St., and Georgia State College for Women.  Still other items were wrapped in announcements of weddings and funerals that took place at First United Methodist Church, then itself right across from the college on Hancock St.  Suitcases and valises in the mold of Manley Pointer's and the Grandmother's from "A Good Man His Hard to Find" awaited their arrival at the site of Flannery's next lecture.

Several days' worth of laughs came from an item from Kidd's Drug Store, which formerly occupied a corner of Hancock and Wayne Sts. downtown.  It was a cardboard fan clearly designed for the hot Sunday afternoons in church, when the ceiling fans and open windows didn't quite get the temperature cool enough to stand.  The little boy pictured upon it has a very pensive, almost troubled look about him, and he's taken to his evening prayers to assuage his worries. A highly unfortunately-located staple also leads someone not paying attention to believe this boy has further taken a cigarette to his makeshift altar.   I could only assume that taking communion with that kid must be a good time, indeed. 

A magazine from a local doctor proved as startling as the fan did hilarious.  This was no waiting room Time, but rather the manual for lupus medication.  We were barely a couple of weeks removed from the anniversary of her death; happening upon this book in one of many boxes proved a bit of a shock.  "The wolf" as Flannery called it is a mystery to me still; I regard it mainly in my mind as a scapegoat rather than a degenerative disease. 

To detail all of the items that came out of that upstairs room would be quite an undertaking, but one that would provide us and our visitors with a better understanding of the goings and comings here at the farm. However, I'm not sure I'd like a full accounting. Coming across an item of unknown purpose and provenance is always exciting, even if it's something as mundane as a horse collar or cardboard drugstore fan.

--Daniel Wilkinson is a Visitor Services Bon Vivant at Andalusia Farm where he sits on the porch and muses for this blog when not visiting with Andalusia's guests.    

Friday, August 21, 2015

Normalcy in Milledgeville, and a Word of Welcome

In my almost 10 years in Milledgeville, I can say with relative certainty that normalcy isn’t our strongest suit here. From our first days as the literal “wild west” of Georgia, the arrival of the first politicians, and the long service of Central State Hospital, the townspeople have seen a steady stream of Misfits. They could be outright charlatans, ill, or just plain eccentric. They could be a doctor, professor, politician, or have no job at all. Such characters are the charm of most any small Southern town, and Milledgeville has fortunately seen its share during its 200+ years. In her own characteristically sardonic way, Flannery herself said that she “attracted the lunatic fringe.” I am fortunate to be in such close proximity to these figures, and some may put even me in the Misfit ranks, though I’d like to point out that I tend to treat little old ladies—even cantankerous ones like the Grandmother from “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”—better than Flannery’s Misfit did.

Since 1879 and the opening of Georgia Military College (then Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College), Milledgeville has rung in each Autumn by welcoming a new crop of students to its places of higher learning. Flannery, of course, was one of these students, coming onto the campus of Georgia State College for Women for the first time as a student at the Peabody School as a teenager and staying through the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. I think it’s fitting that, each year, our “normal” way of life resumes in this town by welcoming in hundreds of new students—complete strangers—who are still themselves figuring out who they are; they’re Misfits too, after their fashion. A mess of Misfits, at that: better than 1400, according to an unofficial accounting. Those first few weeks away from home are a wonderfully transformative time. As a teacher I invariably share in their enthusiasm. It’s Spring in the dog days of Summer: life returns to the historic district, and the town is alive once more with bright-eyed, eager young people and those who will educate them. The newcomers will learn the ropes of the town: the best places to eat, the best local music acts, the best spots to rest a while. The lucky ones, of course, end up becoming locals themselves eventually.

1400 complete strangers’ coming into one’s own backyard is an O’Connor sort of normal, very fit for someone who, in spite of her illness, welcomed all manner of visitors to her home. We’re proud to carry on that tradition. Indeed, the Flannery and Fashion exhibit on display right now has pictures of Katharine Anne Porter and other travelers to Andalusia. In that spirit, we here at Andalusia invite all the newcomers to our little slice of Milledgeville. Our front porch makes for a wonderful reading room, and the hiking trails and other outdoor activities can be a welcome respite from the rigors of academics. Get acquainted with not only Milledgeville’s most famous resident, but also her (and our) way of life.

-- Daniel Wilkinson, a Freshman himself in the above photo, is an Instructor of English at Georgia College and a Visitor Services Bon Vivant at Andalusia Farm. When not maintaining the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House for Georgia's Old Capital Museum, he can be found at the nearest trivia contest or rehearsing with the First United Methodist Church Choir and the Milledgeville Players. When not with the choirs and tourists, Daniel enjoys Southern literature, handwritten letters, good barbecue, and the Oxford comma.

Monday, August 3, 2015

12:40 a.m. August 3, 1964

Flannery O’Connor died at Baldwin County Hospital on this day 51 years ago. The staff who work at Andalusia Farm honor her. We feel a particular affection for Flannery the person and unbounded admiration for Flannery the writer.
We are privileged to work at the place that inspired one of the best writers of the 20th century and the place to which visitors come to soak in that same atmosphere. They come to pay homage to both the person and the writer for, as anyone who has read her letters and essays knows, they were two sides of the same coin. Both writer and person were inextricably bound up together into an endlessly fascinating, perplexing, and hilariously funny persona that still lives in people’s hearts and minds.
We are privy here to tears shed over Flannery as they imagine her suffering, smiles of joy as they touch the sink where Flannery washed the meal’s dishes (“Don’t stack the plates cause then I have to wash both sides.”), and laughter as folks recite their favorite lines. That the person is so tied up with the writer is not unique to this historic house museum, home of a literary figure but many people feel a closeness to the writer that I think would make her uncomfortable but also pleased that her work has touched so many people in profound ways.
She said that “Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy." Still, readers want to soak up as much of Flannery “the person” as they can, and coming to Andalusia Farm is one way to do that. Once here, we try to steer them towards the elements of the farm that connect to her writing: the barn loft, the tractor/murder weapon, the peafowl, the tree line, and the special light here at sunset that does look like fire or blood (with one eye squinted).  
Still, Flannery the person is here and people want to know where she wrote, where she ate, who visited, and what the farm operation was like. We do our best while always trying to bring everything back to Flannery the writer who had something to say. Rest in peace Flannery, we are glad to know you.
-          The Staff at Andalusia Farm – Home of Flannery O’Connor

Saturday, July 25, 2015

On the Other Side of the Gate: A Shift in Vision

I am an old timer. I first went to Milledgeville and the O’Connor Collection in 1973 or 1974, forty plus years ago. I was writing a dissertation at the University of South Carolina on Flannery O’Connor’s kinship with the 19th-century American romance writers. Carless, I took a greyhound bus from Columbia, SC, to Milledgeville. I spent an intense week reading manuscripts, talking with then curator Gerald Becham and Sarah Gordon, and, each day after the Collection closed, walking the Georgia College campus and surrounding downtown and residential neighborhoods. Multiple times I passed by the Green St. house hoping for a glimpse of Regina and walked to O’Connor’s grave in Memory Hill Cemetery. But not having a car precluded my seeking out Andalusia. But dependent upon public transportation, I did have an unanticipated bonus the day I left: I do believe I met some of the prototypes of O’Connor’s characters on a Friday afternoon when we sat together in the bus station, they going on weekend furlongs from the then still functioning mental hospital, I returning to Columbia to teach summer school in order to get through the summer financially.

When I landed a tenure-track job at Converse College in 1976 (dissertation still unfinished), I trashed my bicycle and bought a car. My next trip to Milledgeville was in 1977 in that car. I did numerous drive-bys of the Andalusia lane on this trip and on subsequent trips before the Andalusia Foundation was formed and the house and grounds opened to the public. Sometimes I parked across 441 or pulled off of the southbound lane a hundred yards or so from the lane and walked back to the locked gate and no trespassing sign. I had heard a number of tales of trespassers encountering a uniformed guard appearing out of nowhere, so I never climbed over the gate, but rather merely rested my hands on its bars and peered through up the sandy lane. I must have looked like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character, nose pressed against the glass, longing for the rich society life he couldn’t have. In my case, I was separated by a farm gate and longing for something I couldn’t name, didn’t—and perhaps still don’t—really understand. What drew me back repeatedly? What was it that I thought I’d have or learn by walking up that lane to Andalusia?

When first Sarah Gordon and then Elizabeth Wylie asked me to write something for this Andalusia blog, I had no idea what I would write. In fact, non-techie that I am, I didn’t know there was such a blog. Their request, however, got me thinking about what four decades ago I hoped to find beyond that gate I so consistently returned to. Was it a kinship between O’Connor’s 19th-century farm house and the white clapboard 1880’s farm house in Virginia that I had grown up in? Did I think architectural similarities somehow might grant me some special insight to a writer I had loved since 1969 when I had first read her—all of her fiction—in one week for an honors seminar my senior year in college. Was it idle curiosity? Was it my 1960’s spirit of wanting to defy a no trespassing sign.

Once the house and grounds were opened to the public by the Foundation, my visits to Andalusia accompanying occasional research trips to the manuscript collections, attendance at O’Connor conferences in Milledgeville, and teaching stints at the two NEH summer seminars yielded no answers. In fact, once allowed beyond the gate, I found I no longer felt an obsessive need to be at Andalusia. I certainly did, however, enjoy strolling through the woods and fields; walking around the dilapidated farm buildings (and now graciously the completed and on-going restoration of a few) and associating them with the layout of some of the stories; eating figs from a bush that O’Connor likely ate from; standing in the house and seeing rooms and items I had previously known only from published photographs. I confess I picked up my share of rocks, one of which now sits in the center of a birdbath in my home in northeast Arkansas. While I saw some other visitors pull healthy iris rhizomes from large clumps in need of division and replanting, I lifted two small rhizomes that had been repeatedly mowed over and took them to Arkansas where I have restored them to health. I bought my share of memorabilia and have enjoyed sharing cards and refrigerator magnets over the years. I have regularly contributed financially to the restoration of the farm buildings, the upkeep of the house, and the return of the peacocks—may Mary Grace and Manley Pointer rest in peace, and may the surviving hen, I forget her name, not get new companions until the pen is secure from weasels and large enough to accommodate multiple occupants.

I will likely return in September to the 2015 O’Connor conference and spend time at Andalusia. That time will, of course, evoke O’Connor for me, but perhaps more importantly it will be time spent with other O’Connor scholars and friends from across the country who relish O’Connor’s work as much as I. We will debate new books and essays, quiz each other about what we might know about the Sessions’ manuscript or about any new gifts to the Emory or the GC & SU collections, and tell stories about our latest joys of reading and teaching O’Connor. We will talk about our own on-going work and our families and pets, and we will determine what upcoming conference we might see each other at in the near future. Whether next on the lawn of Andalusia again or in a bar in San Francisco, we will slide back into the same comfortable conversations, among people the large majority of whom have never set foot in one another’s home towns, much less their living rooms. What bonds us is not place nor even, I think, O’Connor’s person or home. Rather it is her art and thought that has made each of us see, as she and Conrad would say. That vision has changed us. I hope for the better.

My birds use their Andalusia rock as a secure perch in a deep birth bath. I am getting ready to dig and separate my Andalusia iris, giving them a new home under a nicely thriving ginkgo tree. I love my abstract watercolor of three peacock feathers painted by a Georgia College art instructor and won by me in a silent auction in 2001 by shutting down competitors with a bid of $666. No one dared touch that! I unquestionably hope the Foundation continues to receive monies necessary to restore Andalusia as a historical literary gem that will attract visitors and consequently increase O’Connor’s readership. But I don’t need any of these material things. Whatever I thought I needed in 1974 when I literally longed to climb the gate to Andalusia could not possibly have been more formative, delightful, and terrifying than the daily awareness of O’Connor’s work that has increasingly become a part of me since I first read her in 1969. At the slightest provocation, her one-liners jump into my head; people or things I see or hear around me recall scenes from her fiction; and skies and tree lines can even evoke her whole canon.

The one tangible thing I do need I have intentionally hung by my mirror in my bathroom: a framed note-card reproduction of Martha Dilliard’s painting “Revelation.” (If you don’t know it, you can find it online.) It depicts abstractly some olds hogs lying in a sty, and Ruby and Claude—and theirs and my kind—trailing the hordes through the sky presumably to heaven. Seeing this image first thing every morning unfailingly makes me laugh and reminds me that the slap of reality that hit Ruby in the doctor’s office was not just for her, but rather for me and you and all of O’Connor’s readers who grasp her eternal crossroads. There is no pig parlor at Andalusia. It is, however, a place where a great mind and imagination accomplished much of her greatest work.

--Virginia Wray began her career at Converse College before becoming a member of the founding faculty at the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts. She then moved to Lyon College (previously Arkansas College) where she taught English for 25 years. She then served as VP for Academic Services and Dean of Faculty at Lyon for 5 years, retiring in July 2015. She currently serves on the Scholars Council of the Flannery-O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flannery O’Connor: Fashionista or Frump?

This spring I was granted access to some of Flannery O’Connor’s personal artifacts for an Independent Research Study sponsored by Georgia College’s Graduate Creative Writing Program. These artifacts became the basis of Andalusia’s current exhibition: Flannery and Fashion at Mid-Century.

My job was to sift through the clothing in the chifferobe that stands in Flannery’s bedroom. No one knows who left the clothing there, or why it remained after other personal items were taken by their rightful heirs. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for as I cataloged and inventoried each of the 56 items in the chifferobe, but I was fascinated by any clues that might offer up information about how this brilliant writer lived.

Like so many others, I have been enchanted by Flannery’s vision of the Deep South, which seems to come to life at Andalusia Farm. It’s a world where a phony Bible salesman steals prosthetic legs and a convict shoots a little old grandmother point blank. It’s a world rife with paradox, simultaneously comic and tragic, sublime and damned that mirrors the paradoxes I found when I tried to answer the question:

“What did Flannery think about fashion?”

My initial response: She didn’t give a hoot about fashion, did she? When O’Connor was a student at Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College), she published a satirical piece entitled “Fashion’s Perfect Medium” in the school literary magazine, The Corinthian. It poked fun at faddish mid-1940s fashions her classmates wore: oversized sweaters, long strands of knotted pearls, and reversible rain coats. Reading the piece, one gets the sense that O’Connor understands fashion trends quite well but is above the frivolity of it all.

After reading Brad Gooch’s biography of O’Connor, in which he paints Flannery as a dowdy homebody after several callers to Andalusia reported O’Connor received them wearing dungarees, an oversized button-down, and clunky loafers, I came to a similar conclusion. O’Connor devoted her time to more important literary, philosophical, and theological pursuits to care about what duds she wore.

However, other evidence suggests O’Connor, at least earlier in her life, may have been a clotheshorse—and having been brought up to be a Southern lady—cared about her appearance and wearing proper attire. While in Iowa City attending graduate school, O’Connor wrote daily letters home to her mother, Regina. In nearly every letter O’Connor discusses her concerns over clothing: mending, laundering, switching ugly buttons for prettier ones, taking clothing shopping exhibitions to Cedar Rapids with her friends, and thanking her mother for sending clothing that was trendy. While at the writer’s colony, Yaddo, O’Connor writes in a letter home about buying a new, blue jacket because the director, Elizabeth Ames, wanted her guests to dress formally for dinner. So even if O’Connor didn’t admit to caring about fashion per se, she did at least care about decorum.

As for the items in the chifferobe, the most important was a navy-blue cotton dress worn by O’Connor. The sleeveless dress with a fitted bodice with pin-tucking, a fitted waist with full pleated skirt, and matching lace on both bodice and at hemline, was at the height of 1950s trends. O’Connor wore this dress for an interview and photoshoot The Atlanta Journal Constitution published in July of 1962, just before the 10th anniversary reissue of Wise Blood, O’Connor’s first novel.

Other notable pieces from the chifferobe also reflect a smart sense of style. O’Connor favored clothing the color of her beloved peacocks. Most of the 12 dresses, 5 blouses, 5 silk scarves, 3 hats, and 2 pairs of gloves are either blue, green, teal, or some combination of these colors. I found 12 belts, many which were fabric-covered to match a particular dress, another trend of the 50s. There was also a collection of underthings: slips, panties, a garter-belt, dress-shields (some that had been well used), and bras (size 36 if you’re curious).

Every writer embodies a little part of every character they write, and ultimately, I think O’Connor was both like the Grandmother from “A Good Man is Hard to Find”—capable of donning gloves and hat so people would know she was a lady—and like Joy/Hulga from “Good Country People,” too concerned with her intellectual life to care if people saw her wearing beat up loafers and shapeless sweatshirts two sizes too big.

Photo by Joe McTyre for the AJC in 1962.

-- Sarah K. Lenz is a recent MFA graduate of O’Connor’s alma mater. Her nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Colorado Review, Fourth River, South Dakota Review, and New Letters among others. Her essay, “Lightning Flowers,” was named a Notable Essay of 2014 in Best American. She lives in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Hidden Treasures at Andalusia Farm

Do you enjoy a walk through the woods, discovering new and interesting places, solving a puzzle or how about a treasure hunt? If so you may like Geocaching. What is Geocaching? Simply put, geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt using GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites, and Andalusia Farm has several of these treasures on-site!

It all started in May, 2000 when the US government removed “Selective Availability” from global positioning satellites. This meant all civilian GPS units became far more accurate. Before the month was out a GPS enthusiast hid a container in Oregon and posted the coordinates on a website and said “Go find it” and they did. Since then geocaching has grown by leaps and bounds.There are now more than two and a half million geocaches hidden all around the world. Some are on high mountain tops some in the sea but most are more accessible in the woods, parks, or even in the city.There are over six million active geocachers hunting for them. The chances are good that you have walked right by a cache. Caches are never buried but often well disguised and cleverly hidden.

What is a cache? Basically it is a hidden container with a log sheet. The cache is owned and maintained by the cache owner who is a member of The owner acquires permission to hide the cache, writes up the description for the cache page and sends it to a reviewer who publishes the page on the geocaching website.

A cache can be any size. Popular cache containers are ammo boxes, plastic Lock-Lock boxes and pill bottle sized containers. There are tiny ones no bigger than a small bullet. Regardless the size all cache containers contain a log sheet that the finder dates and signs with his or her user name. Many are disguised as rocks, bird houses, logs - the list goes on. Creative cachers can come up with very challenging cache containers that are puzzles to open. Larger cache containers contain “swag” - trinkets that can be traded equally.

There are several types of caches. Puzzle caches require you to break a code, do some math, and maybe Google some answers to questions before solving for the coordinates. Earth caches have no containers at all. The coordinates take you to a location where some interesting geological formation can be found. You must answer questions based on your observations. Other caches take you to historic sites or monuments. A complete list of cache types can be found on the website.

To play, geocachers log on and register at One’s username becomes the name that is used to sign logs sheets which are always in the cache. Once logged in you can enter your zip code, city or street address under “Play” on the website. A list of nearby caches will be provided as well as a map. Each cache has its own page listing coordinates, a map and description of area. There are codes to tell you what type of terrain to expect and how difficult it may be to find. Once a cache is found (or not found) the cacher logs his experiences on the cache page.

Geocachers use hand held GPS units or smartphones. There is a free app for iPhones that will get you started or a more sophisticated one for about $10.00. If using a handheld unit you enter the coordinates of a cache you have selected. The phone app will bring up nearby caches for you to find and includes a map showing the cache location and your current location.

Who geocaches? Families with children, retired couples, boy scouts to earn a badge and anyone else who enjoys the out of doors. There is a cache type for everyone.

Everyone caches for different reasons. For us it is about getting out in nature and having a challenging adventure. It is also the fun of discovering new places. It is finding covered bridges in Pennsylvania and Georgia, turning off the main road to find a postcard pretty town in New York, or learning about the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. We explored a remote kite-surfers hang out in Curacao and met other cachers on a cruise. We found an old firetruck hidden in downtown Milledgeville. Finding places we never knew existed is always a thrill.

We hid our first caches at Andalusia Farm. Andalusia fit our criteria as a good place to look for a cache. The farm is a safe place for families to cache. There is the Tobler Creek Nature Trail which meanders through beautiful woods filled with wildlife. There is the history of the Clines, mid-century farm life and Flannery O’Connor. The caches will bring people who did not know about Andalusia. Hopefully they will leave with a little knowledge of what Andalusia is all about and some new cache finds.

-- Mary Anne and Paul May (aka: AstoriaRose and MayTech) are avid geocachers, and volunteers at Andalusia Farm.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mary Flannery O’Connor at Sorrel Farm

It may be that I have just come in from mowing the lawn on an unconscionably warm June day, but it looks terribly hot in the photograph I have up on my laptop screen. The sun is bright; the young African-American man who is the photo’s subject squints into the sunlight, and his shadow is a little round nub behind him: just before or just after noon, the sun pounding down. He is wearing a bright red jacket and grinning—clearly he is not uncomfortable wearing flashy clothes—and there is a bright red sedan parked fifteen or twenty feet behind him. The car’s whitewalls, those where the entire outside of the tire is dazzling white the way it was back around 1960, are the exact same color as the scratchplate of the guitar the young man—he’s, what, fifteen? sixteen?—is holding, and the guitar itself is red like the body of the car and the jacket on the goofing kid, who has struck the flex-kneed pose of a showman.

Sometimes I turn off the lights in my classroom and put this image onscreen with no comment other than “Here. Look.” Most of my students just stare at it and then cut eyes my way, varying degrees of furious at me for wanting them to figure out why this old photograph should be taking up class time. But every time I have done this—and this has a lot to do with how my students grow up listening to their parents’ classic rock—some boy who needs a haircut (the student is always a boy) (he always needs a haircut) will notice that the guitarist is left-handed and that the guitar is upside down, and he will say, “Hendrix,” usually with a smile and often with a quiet note of admiration, both for the guitarist and for his own cleverness. Sometimes the student’s classmates will take a couple of notes right then: this might be on the test, J-i-m- and so on. However, I am not in fact consumed with interest in Hendrix himself (as I explain to people who want to place me generationally, I was/am a punk not a hippie) but rather in how the student swept his floppy bangs out of his eyes and reasoned with the photo—how he asked questions of the photograph and the photograph answered back: I’m lefthanded. I play a righthanded guitar held upside down. Your professor thinks I’m famous enough that you should know my name. Who am I?

I am a sucker for documentary evidence that brings marvels to life: a photo in the Ken Burns Baseball documentary that seems to depict Babe Ruth’s “called shot”; a catalogue for Araby, the “Grand Oriental Fête” held in Dublin in March 1894; the real Eleanor Rigby’s tombstone (d. 1939) in the graveyard of St Peter's Graveyard, Woolton, where Lennon and McCartney met in 1957; a newspaper clipping about James Francis “Three Gun” Hill. I have gone on at some length about this Hendrix photo as a text for close reading because I am circling back around to one I saw this April 18 when I was nosing around Google looking for photos of Flannery O’Connor. I say “nosing around” because I was not doing something legit, like putting together a PowerPoint faculty lecture as I did last November (“Flannery O’Connor’s Sins of the Flesh”—not as sexy as it sounds) or the introduction to the O’Connor seminar I taught this spring. I was not doing anything I could have explained if my wife had said, “But why are you looking for pictures of Flannery? Don’t you have enough already?” (There were so many in my faculty lecture that the classroom computer crashed and both of the flash drives I had saved the presentation on stopped working.) Instead, I was, ummm, looking around, as one would do for an old crush, just seeing what the Internet would turn up: googling; poking through cyberspace; creeping; stalking.

The photograph that appeared that Saturday was one I had never seen before. With the (a mistake, I think, corrected in the title of this posting) caption “Flannery O’Connor at Andalusia, her family’s dairy farm,” the photo appears on the cover of the Winter 2015 Emory Magazine. It illustrates “Grace Notes,” a story about Emory’s remarkable acquisition of thirty boxes of O’Connor materials for its Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). Some of the material from the acquisition had shown up on the Internet back in fall, albeit in collages that make for difficult inspection. Still, if you squint you can work out the remarkable images that make up those assemblages, including a stupendously satisfying selfie, that have appeared in the last eight months and made a research (stalking?) trip to Atlanta inevitable. The drive for expertise, which is another name for the urge to dominate and control one’s topic, will cost me a week on an in-law’s couch.

At first, I failed to see that the porch extends behind her (the lighting washes out what is on the upper left of the column) and thought that the chair was pulled up at the corner of what one would now call “Flannery’s room.” At first, to be honest, I made a horrible mistake, encouraged by the stupid assumption that this photo was taken in the Fifties, when Flannery had come to live at Andalusia. I actually wondered where her crutches were. Why did they take her crutches and leave her with a possibly vicious rooster? My guess was that the porch, clearly unscreened here, was screened in the mid-fifties, and for this idiotic reason I sent an email to Andalusia Farm: “Can you identify when this photo was taken?” I had posted my question before taking a more serious look at it and seeing that, as Elizabeth Wylie replied almost immediately, “Flannery looks like a (young?) teen there.” Of course, she does. I have not seen much of the teen Flannery from this angle, I think—there is a photo of the twelve-year-old in the Cash biography, and that’s all I can recollect—but the hair and glasses seem very similar to the photo accompanying the December 1941 story in the Peabody Palladium titled “Peabodite Reveals Strange Hobby,” albeit that photo is head on and disguises her self-disclosed “receding chin” (though not her “you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex”). It does me some—a little, maybe—credit to say that I had figured out the approximate dating of the photo before Elizabeth politely and enthusiastically replied and recognized that I was not looking at Flannery O’Connor, but Mary Flannery instead, and not at Andalusia but at Sorrel Farm.

In the magazine cover photo, which is overlit—the afternoon sun is flooding in—and hard to make out, Mary Flannery sits in a ladderback chair backed up to a column on the front porch of Sorrel Farm’s main house. The column helps give away the setting. Grinning, Mary Flannery seems awfully tickled by something, perhaps the black rooster perched on the arm of her chair, though her gaze seems more focused on something way the other side of the rooster—something in the stable, perhaps. On the other side of the rooster is a tree, and in the background on the left is some sort of lump that shows up white and misshapen in the photo—a stump? a meteorite? I have carefully, perhaps obsessively, studied present-day photos of Andalusia and can accurately report that I have no earthly idea which tree that is and what the lump is. The shrubbery, which can be spotted to the left of the column, does not even reach the height of the porch and it is scraggly—not, that is, the well-coiffed mature hedge that welcomes you onto the porch and into the house today.

What would also strike you is that the porch is unscreened and the chair is not one of the rockers you’re likely to sit in when you visit, wishing you could stay till sunset and see if the sunsets in Flannery’s stories are much like those on Flannery’s farm. O’Connor wrote about the newly acquired rockers to “Billy” Sessions on the first day of September 1957: “[O]ur front porch now looks like the entrance to an old ladies’ rest home. I hadn’t rocked for years but I think I am going to excel at it with a little more practice.” They seem as if they ought to be there, but they were still sitting on the porch of Bell House in Atlanta when Mary Flannery sat down with the black rooster for their double portrait. In a pre-Andalusia photograph Elizabeth Wylie sent me, the house appears without screen (and also, dang it, without weird white lump; maybe it was what was left of a melting snowman [?]), and, if you lighten the image, black chairs appear next to the front door. I can’t tell you if they’re ladderbacks.

Mary Flannery’s arms are crossed in front of her. It is a good pose, I think, if you happen to be sitting next to a rooster that might be camera-shy and pecky. She is wearing a dark cardigan, a blouse with a Peter Pan collar, and sensible shoes. “Wear some old shoes as this place is very muddy and manurey,” she wrote Betty Hester on June 15, 1957, emphasis hers. (Compare that with O’Connor’s recollection of the la-dee-dah offices of Mademoiselle: “full of girls in peasant skirts and horn-rimmed spectacles and ballet shoes” [To Betty Hester, May 5, 1956].) There is a book to be written about shoes in and on O’Connor. About this I am serious. The book may be short but maybe not: shoe appears exactly 100 times in the Collected Stories; it appears 18 times in Wise Blood, in which the word hat appears only 16 (imagine Hazel Motes: which of his fashion choices seems most important to you?). The Girl Scout shoes on the feet of “the ugly girl” in “Revelation” were part of Mary Flannery’s self-chosen uniform as well, says Brad Gooch.

Whether she is wearing a skirt tucked between her knees (my guess intially) or shorts led to a minor disagreement between me and my wife (who, to be fair to her, defined the garment as “equestrian culottes” or “shorts” even when I insisted on “skorts”). No good Catholic girl, she authoritatively asserts, would tuck her skirt between her knees. She grew up Catholic and pretty good and I was a Baptist, so you might want to trust her on this one. I didn’t, so I inadvertently crowdsourced the question instead. Till two days before, I had seen the skirt as a solid fabric. But then I read Gooch’s description of Mary Flannery’s “creative” outfit, which included silk blouse, heavy shoes, and plaid skirt, and began to see a pattern, a recognition I did not feel I could trust since the bio might have prejudiced me. So I emailed the photograph to the faculty and staff of my college and asked, “What do you see when you look at this young woman’s skirt: solid or plaid?” I might as well have asked whether a dress was blue-and-black or white-and-gold, the excitement was so great. Within one hour, I had received dozens of answers, which broke down more or less like this: 10% solid; 85% plaid; 5% stripes. But then, several respondents also answered a question I had not asked. “Jimmy, you dolt,” one answered (“dolt” was implied), “the garment is plaid and that is not a skirt. Those are shorts.” (One person answered that she was in fact OBVIOUSLY wearing striped shorts, but I choose to ignore him because he seems a dangerous anarchist to me.) That was enough reinforcement: I concede this one to that good Catholic girl Sharee St. Louis Smith, who also, since I am acknowledging some of my innumerable debts to her, reminded me that the porch chair is called a “ladderback” and not, as I had been putting it, “that kind, you know, that my grandma had in her kitchen.”

“There was something about ‘teen’ attached to anything that was repulsive to me,” wrote Flannery to Betty Hester in February 1956. In the collected letters, she seems reluctant also to speak about college days as well: she joked about having “Total Non-Retention” in letters to Betty Hester, Cecil Dawkins, and Janet McKane. However, with publication of the MARBL documents and as more of us visit Atlanta to gently plunder the treasures stored there, this teenager and her world will become more and more real to us. Downtown Milledgeville today, especially the few blocks separating 311 West Greene Street from the site of the Peabody School—a route that teenager took most every day—presents a mind-warping collage of sights, some that would have been familiar to Mary Flannery (Atkinson and Terrell Halls, among other buildings) and some not. I have fun, for instance, imagining Mary Flannery, “head thrust forward” (as Gooch describes), hands clasped behind her back, as she plods along in heavy brown shoes, running smack into one of those maintenance carts you see all over GCSU. Those years seem like the great mystery of O’Connor’s life to me, a time when she was surrounded by kin and WAVES and chickens with names like Haile—and now it occurs to me that I should find out the name of the rooster in that photo.

-- Jimmy Dean Smith, Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Union College, KY, was among 24 scholars attending "Reconsidering Flannery O'Connor" a Summer Institute funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and held at Georgia College in July 2014. For more information about the institute, please visit

Friday, June 19, 2015

Andalusia Farm and the World

Context: Part Two

Last month, I wrote about the micro-context of the farm and the preservation and conservation mandate of the Flannery O’Connor – Andalusia Foundation (FOCA). This week, I want to share the macro-context of the world-wide network of historic sites and house museums and the ways in which this ‘industry’ (yes, it is an industry, albeit a largely non-profit one) is served and guided by professionals and best practices.

In late April, 2015, 4500 museum professionals from all over the country (including over 400 from 57 countries outside the U.S.) converged on Atlanta for the Annual Meeting of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). I have been an active member of the AAM since 1978. I joined while I was an undergraduate at Boston University, majoring in art history with a concentration in museum studies. I remained active through graduate school (art history at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts) and as I began my career as a curator, and later director. As an instructor in Tufts University’s museum studies program, I had the pleasure of introducing students to the field and was thrilled to see some of my former students (now working in a variety of museum positions across the country) at the AAM meeting in Atlanta.

My colleague at Andalusia, April Moon Carlson, is also a product of a museum studies program at University of West Georgia. In tandem with her graduate work in Public History, museum studies provided April with valuable training in all the functional areas of work at Andalusia: collections care (yes, with peafowl and diverse flora and fauna, we have both living and non-living collections), interpretation, and visitor services. It was April’s first time at AAM’s annual meeting, a professional development opportunity that was not to be missed for someone just beginning her career.

Six months before the annual meeting, I served on AAM’s National Program Committee. Professionals from across the country gathered last fall in Atlanta at the Woodruff Center for the Arts where over two days we hashed out the content of the annual meeting, an amazing feat when one considers the scale of the conference: 190 sessions over four days. My involvement with AAM also extends to the professional networks on historic houses and on environmental sustainability (I was on the founding board of the latter group and am in my final year as co-chair). I also am a frequent contributor to AAM’s bimonthly publication, Museum.

Andalusia Farm benefits immeasurably when staff are knowledgeable and have a network among industry groups. Regionally, we are members of the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries (GAMG), my predecessor Craig Amason served on the board of this organization, and of the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) serving twelve southern states.

FOCA has been a long-time member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), a nonprofit organization founded in 1949 to advocate for preservation and to save America's historic places. I have also been active with NTHP for many years, often as a conference presenter on the merger of preservation and environmentally sustainable practice.

Last fall, the NTHP conference was held in Savannah. I was an eager attendee as I participated in a variety of sessions helpful to running Andalusia and engaged with the network I have cultivated over many years. A member of that network came in handy just yesterday as I sought preliminary information about a Historic Structures Report (that is ‘preservation speak’ for a very specific research document that typically precedes important preservation capital projects) for the main house at the farm.

We are also members of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). This organization is a helpful resource and offers a multitude of tools, tips, techniques and resources for professional development and training for boards, staff and volunteers at historic sites and house museums. AASLH’s imprint, Rowman and Littlefield, published a book I co-authored.: “The Green Museum: A Primer on Environmental Practice,” now in its second edition. Andalusia is also featured as a case study in AASLH’s newly published “Environmental Sustainability at Historic Sites and Museums.”

On the international front, I have been a member of the International Council on Museums (ICOM) for years. Through my participation in DEMHIST (an ICOM International Committee focusing upon the conservation and management of house museums; its name derives from the French term "demeures historiques") I am informed about innovative approaches to preservation, conservation, and interpretation among historic house museums across the globe. We share similar challenges and learn from one another as we seek to insure our sites are viable now and into the future.

Now and into the future?

That is what we, as professionals, are concerned with: how do we create relevance at our sites so visitors come, engage, and support us … now and into the future? This is a tall order. To succeed, we need every tool available and look to the broader context of historic sites and house museums for models and ideas for approaches at Andalusia. After all, we are not alone.

-- Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director, The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation

Elizabeth Wylie standing atop the "green roof" at Southface with PIC GREEN at the 2015 AAM conference

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Biographical Comments for Unveiling of Flannery O’Connor Stamp

Stamp Ceremony, McLean, VA – June 5, 2015

I’m very pleased to be here for the First Day of Issue Ceremony for the stamp honoring Flannery O’Connor. I want to thank Jill Piazza for inviting me and for making the arrangements, and I want to thank Prof. Avis Hewitt of Grand Valley State University for providing so much of the enthusiasm for the drive to have O’Connor honored in this fashion. Flannery O’Connor has received many honors—her Complete Stories was voted the best book ever to have won the National Book Award, and she was recently inducted into the Poets Corner at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City—but I believe O’Connor would be particularly gratified to receive an honor in the form of postage of the ornithic sort we are here to celebrate. O’Connor used to create her signature by arranging her initials into the shape of a bird. In a letter to Janet McKane, O’Connor recalls her delight in once receiving a stamp in commemoration of National Chicken Week (HB 577). Yes, the stamp had a chicken on it. When O’Connor painted her most famous self portrait, she included a bird in it, nearly as her double. So it is only right that the O’Connor stamp includes some peacock feathers. O’Connor owned as many as fifty peacocks at one point. The stamp is very pretty, but those of you who know O’Connor’s writing will forgive me if I enjoy imagining a fight breaking out among these beautifully grotesque birds outside the frame, at O’Connor’s feet.

This honor of having a stamp is also appropriate because Flannery O’Connor is one of THE greatest writers of personal letters. Her letters are witty and smart, and she was a great friend to the many people with whom she corresponded. I believe O’Connor generally tried to become whatever her pen pals needed her to be, from spiritual counselor to redneck playmate. O’Connor could be a nice person. If you read a substantial selection of O’Connor’s letters—say, in the collection The Habit of Being, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award—you will receive an autobiography, some comedy routines, sophisticated training in theology, and a class on how to live as a fiction writer. I have noticed that the stamp to honor O’Connor is a three-ounce stamp, one that does not go on ordinary correspondence. But this too seems right, for O’Connor wrote letters that were anything but ordinary. I’m sure Flannery wishes she could be here today, if only to startle us.

I bring you greetings from Milledgeville (the antebellum capital city of Georgia), and from Georgia College (called Georgia State College for Women when O’Connor went to college there), and from the farm home Andalusia (—the places that inspired O’Connor, where she wrote her major works, and where we now work to preserve and support her legacy. Though Flannery grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where she was born in 1925, she did get to visit Milledgeville as a child. These visits were moments of freedom from parental watchfulness. Around age 25, after O’Connor had been away from the South for years—in Iowa, in New York, in Connecticut—her illness with lupus forced her to return to the farm, there to live the rest of her life with her strong-willed mother, Regina, always nearby. As Brad Gooch suggests, O’Connor bought those peacocks to make herself feel better about living on a farm (219). Milledgeville life was the reputation for being, shall we say, colorful. After all, it has been the home of several prisons and the home of the world’s second largest insane asylum. It would be an overstatement to say that “In reality, the countryside surrounding the town was full of grotesques” suitable for O’Connor’s fiction: “fake preachers and faith healers, phony Bible salesmen, busybody farmers’ wives, Ku Klux clansmen, drifters, and serial killers” (O’Donnell 25). But we have our moments. And oh yes, Angela O’Donnell points out that in Milledgeville, Flannery “developed a new sense of herself as being different from her peers on account of her Catholicism” (24). O’Connor made the most of this religious friction.

What happened at Andalusia in the 1950s and early 60s was nearly miraculous. For one thing, Flannery and Regina avoided doing bodily harm to each other, and for another thing, by the time O’Connor died in 1964, Regina had given her thirteen years of a lifestyle similar to what the young O’Connor had discovered at the writers’ colony Yaddo—a life most writers would die for, in which all the energy the writer could muster each day was devoted to the concentration needed to produce the next great piece of writing. O’Connor spent many of her afternoons writing her beautifully crafted letters.

At Georgia College we are fortunate that Regina O’Connor donated the world’s largest and most significant collection of O’Connor’s manuscripts to the school library. We are also lucky that O’Connor was a great reviser. We now publish the Flannery O’Connor Review—which we believe to be the longest-running journal dedicated to a woman writer (—and we host conferences about O’Connor from time to time and greet a great many literary tourists and visiting researchers. Georgia College even published a book some years ago called Postmarked Milledgeville—just to describe all the collections of Flannery O’Connor’s letters that have been deposited in libraries all over the country.

I want to thank you all for being here today to honor Flannery O’Connor, and I hope you buy a great many O’Connor stamps. Save them forever, or use them on looooong letters. And...  come see us.

-- Bruce Gentry edits the Flannery O’Connor Review and teaches the course on O’Connor’s fiction at Georgia College. This year he will host a conference, “Flannery O’Connor and Other Southern Women Writers,” scheduled for 17-19 Sept. 2015.

left to right: Daniel Piazza, Chief Curator of Philately, Smithsonian National Postal Museum; Ralph C. Wood, University Professor of Theology and Literature, Baylor University; Daniel D. Grant, Postmaster, McLean, VA; and Bruce Gentry, Professor of English and Editor, Flannery O’Connor Review, Georgia College

Works Cited

Gooch, Brad. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor. New York: Little, 2009.

O’Connor, Flannery. The Complete Stories. New York: Farrar, 1971.

---. The Habit of Being: Letters. Ed. Sally Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, 1979.

O’Donnell, Angela Alaimo. Flannery O’Connor: Fired by Faith. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2015.

Scott, R. Neil, Valerie Nye, Sarah Gordon and Irwin Streight. Postmarked Milledgeville: A Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Correspondence in Libraries and Archives. Milledgeville, GA: Georgia College, 2002.