Friday, May 26, 2017

A Habit of Being Habit

A confession popped out yesterday morning during the monthly meeting of the book club: I, the person attempting to lead this meeting of the book club, had not read The Habit of Being. I did quickly qualify my seeming faux pas, however, in saying that I had not read Flannery’s collected correspondence cover-to-cover. That, I hope saved me from further embarrassment in front of those who attended. 

All that is, of course, not to say that I don’t enjoy the letters; they display the same wit and sharpness that the fiction does. I prefer to tackle the letters topically. Our aged clothbound copy of Habit here in our office at the farm is annotated in just that way, and I’ve been spoiled to a great degree by the quality of the note-taking done therein by our directors. But with annotations and do-it-yourself indexing comes some rather undisciplined usage of sticky notes, and they give our copy a well-used air. That’s a good look for a book and reminds me of what my minister used to say long ago about the quality of life for those who have a well-used Bible. Hardly any aspect of Flannery’s time here goes unnoticed, and their efforts in that that old copy of Habit are borne out in the experiences that our visitors have here.

My personal copy of the Library of America’s Collected Works of O’Connor has a little more grace about it in my refusal to use sticky notes (lest that wonderfully austere black dust jacket be upstaged by a neon yellow slip of paper), but its level of use approaches that of the farm’s Habit of Being. The ends of its pages are yellow from the chalk of the high school classroom I worked in. The bookmark is frayed at the end, and there’s a chunk of the cloth missing from an unexpected meeting with the ground after falling from my bookbag years ago. One day, I’ll steal a few annotations for the smaller collection of letters in the LoA’s volume, and then that book will indeed have that “lived-in” air, though I intend to keep my moratorium on sticky notes.

For now, however, I’ll get back into Habit more frequently as I refine the non-literary portions of our guests’ experience. If Mystery and Manners can get us inside the fiction, Habit lets us in on daily life here in Flannery’s day. Making Habit a habit, too, saves me from future missteps in front of the book club!

Daniel Wilkinson is Andalusia's Bon Vivant and Visitor Services Manager

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