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Do a quick Google search for Flannery O Connor and the result is an astounding 4,590,000 in.21 seconds Yet the majority of what is written about Flannery O Connor concerns the literary criticism of her work, not her biography And, if you take Ms O Connor at face value, there s not a lot to say Brad Gooch, author of Flannery A Life of Flannery O Connor, published in 2009, chose the O Connor s own words as the book s epigraph As for biographies, there won t be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy What Brad Gooch accomplishes in his careful biography, among other things, is to show that Miss O Connor was a droll wit and a master of understatement It s not surprising that Flannery O Connor spoke about time spent in the chicken yard From a young age, Flannery was a collector of rare varieties of chickens Her first claim to fame was Pathe News showing up at her Savannah, Georgia home to film six year old Flannery and one of her precious chickens which she had taught to walk backwards Well, it was 1931 The country was in a depression Pathe was known for its, shall we say, lighthearted news reels shown before feature films to poor folks looking for cheap entertainment.O Connor was fortunate to have been born into a wealthy family, at least on her mother s side, the Clines Father, Edward O Connor, was tall and had the good looks, but his social background lacked the ethereal realm of the Clines After all, the Cline s laid claim to Aunt Katie Semmes who had been married to Raphael Semmes, the son of the famous, or infamous, Confederate naval raider during the recent unpleasantness between the states.Born in 1925, in Savannah, Flannery was a daddy s girl There was always a distance between Flannery and her mother, Regina Father Edward doted on his little girl He was the purchaser of the unusual menagerie of chickens of which Flannery was so fond Flannery would draw pictures and write little notes to her father He would share them with friends and co workers.In the boom before the depression, Ed O Connor became a successful realtor and builder The crash put an end to that He pulled on family connections to secure a position with the earliest form of the Federal Housing Agency That entailed moving to Atlanta O Connor rented a cottage in Buckhead, specifically selecting the house because it overlooked the duck pond which he knew would provide hours of entertainment for Flannery.But death came for Ed O Connor at a young age Lupus killed him at age 45 Flannery was 15 Her father s death devastated her.Mother Regina took her husband s death in stride She moved Flannery to the old Cline family farm called Andalusia just outside of Millidgeville, Georgia It was there that Flannery would spend most of her life.Regina was a domineering mother She selected suitable companions for her daughter She selected the schools she would attend Flannery graduated from Peabody College and went on to Georgia State College for Women, graduated in an accelerated program of three years Here, Flannery demonstrated a flair for art and the beginnings of a writer She aspired to be a cartoonist Her technique was production of images through linoleum cuts There were easier methods, but Flannery always sought perfection no matter how difficult the technique required.As difficult as it was for Regina to allow Flannery to go, Flannery was accepted for a coveted place in the Iowa Writers Workshop She went there with the intention of studying journalism However, under the tutelage of Paul Engel, Flannery turned to fiction Engel was her greatest supporter He wrote that O Connor could walk past a pool hall and describe every sight, sound and smell that emanated from the place O Connor landed a contract with Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich for her first novel, Wise Blood Because she wrote at a snail s pace and constantly revised, edited and redrafted chapter after chapter, the first novel was seven years in production HBJ lost interest However, Robert Giroux had left Harcourt and gone to what would eventually become FSG Giroux would be the moving force behind the publication of Wise Blood Critics were widely divided in their reception of O Connor s first novel During that time, it was not required that reviewers identify themselves Hiding behind the title of their publications, The New Yorker and Time Magazine anonymous critics blasted O Connor s first work Other reviewers recognized that America had a new and most unusual writer on their hands Back home in Milledgeville, Flannery s novel was a quandary in the realm of social reaction How could Mary Flannery O Connor, a good young Catholic lady of good family create a character of the nature of Hazel Motes The obligatory tea parties, which Flannery despised, were given The question then became what to do with Flannery s book so graciously inscribed to the guests at those tea parties It was a puzzle Even the men in town had their own opinion One physician was heard to say, Well, I ll tell you one thing That young woman doesn t know what goes on in a whore house I suppose that was some small comfort to the genteel citizens, if that word ever got back to them.But Wise Blood had brought Flannery freedom She became a member of the Yaddo Artists colony where she befriended poet Robert Lowell Robert and Sally Fitzgerald were fast friends While at Yaddo, Flannery would turn her attention to the short story It was here that stories such as The Life You Save May be Your Own and A Good Man is Hard to Find began to take shape.In 1955, A Good Man is Hard to Find appeared as an anthology with nine other stories, including her first O.Henry first prize stories Life for Flannery O Connor was looking up.However, Flannery s health was poor Her mother Regina saw to it that she received all the necessary medical tests Regina told her she had arthritis Eventually, Flannery would learn from a friend in whom her mother had confided that it wasn t arthritis, it was Lupus.It was after O Connor s discovery of her true illness that Gooch reveals a portrait of a woman who never flinched at the knowledge she had inherited the illness that killed her father O Connor rarely let her illness break her routine.Flannery was up at six, praying Prime from the breviary She dressed and attended mass By nine a.m she was seated at her writing desk in her room at Andalusia She wrote from nine to noon By the end of three hours of constant writing, her illness left her fatigued On those days she felt well, she would receive guests on the porch of Andalusia approximately 3 30 till 5p.m.O Connor entered the lecture circuit constantly appearing at colleges and writers forums discussing such topics as The Catholic Southern Writer, The Grotesque in Southern Fiction, and other similar topics her works had given rise to question.During it all, Flannery thought she had found time for love The Librarians, bless their hearts, had seen fit to introduce a young Dane, Erik Lankgjear, a text book salesman on the southern route Erik became known as Flannery s boyfriend However, he had other plans Eventually, he returned to Denmark, delayed his return ostensibly for extended studies in literature, and finally sent Flannery and engagement notice announcing his forthcoming marriage Flannery graciously responded she would welcome him and his bride in hers and her mother s home.Although no one can know for sure, Flannery was kissed once and only once by the traveling book salesman He found it less than pleasing And, yes He kissed and told In an interview with Christopher O Hare, Langkjear said, As our lips touched I had a feeling that her mouth lacked resilience, as if she had no real muscle tension in her mouth, a result being that my own lips touched her teeth rather than lips, and this gave me an unhappy feeling of a sort of memento moriSo I had the feeling of kissing a skeleton Ah, how gallant.Living and writing in relative isolation from the time she discovered she was suffering from Lupus, O Connor never stopped working She frequently traveled, lecturing English Literature Students, and was a regular guest at the Cheney residence in Nashville, Tennessee, where she rubbed elbows with Robert Penn Warren, whom she called Red Peter Taylor, Allen Tate and others were regular readers for O Connor She delighted in performing A Good Man is Hard to Find In 2007 O Connor s private letters were released, providing Brad Gooch with a wealth of information previously unknown about O Connor s life, philosophy, and her creative process Brad Gooch was a patient biographer He held off attempting to write this biography out of respect for Sally Fitzgerald who claimed she intended on publishing her biography of O Connor Yet, when Fitzgerald died at age 83, no manuscript was found Gooch s work was well worth the wait.Above everything else, Gooch has shown us the living human being behind a relatively short collection of work And he has shown us how other well known authors perceived her We have her opinions of them as well.Pointing to his copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find, William Faulkner exclaimed, Now that s some good stuff Carson McCullers despised her Flannery s feeling for McCullers was on par Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams made her plumb sick.When it was suggested to T.S Eliot that he should publish A Good Man is Hard to Find in England, he dutifully read the book and declined Eliot responded his nerves just couldn t take Miss O Connor Well, keep calm and carry on.Under the surface of Flannery O Connor s writing life lie her feelings for her domineering mother One friend, when asked what Flannery would do without her mother replied she d be lost She d lose half her material No doubt, Flannery killed off her mother repeatedly in various and sundry ways through a number of stories.Regina is the stand in for the grandmother who would have been a good woman if there d have been somebody there to shoot her every day After Regina converted Andalusia from a dairy farm to a beef farm, Flannery wrote her O.Henry prize winning Green Leaf, wherein the protagonist lady farmer is gored to death by one of her prized bulls When asked how her mother would feel about her numerous demises within the pages of Flannery s stories, she blithely remarked, Oh, she never reads my stuff Shortly before her death, editor Robert Giroux visited Flannery and Regina at Andalusia Giroux was net at the gate by mother and daughter Flannery s tremendous flock of peacocks and pea fowl made the journey to the house seem interminable That evening at the dinner table, Regina asked Giroux, Isn t there some way you might get Flannery to right about nice people Flannery found no humor in the conversation.O Connor was well aware of the potential of violence in humanity Her philosophy regarding such frank depictions of it was that people for the most part were so inured to its occurrence that they had to be slapped in the face to see it and do something about it She and Peckinpaugh most likely would have gotten along famously.Flannery completed one of her finest stories, Revelation close to the time of her death In her hospital bed she kept a notebook in which she was penning her last story, Parker s Back These and other stories were published posthumously in her final anthology, Everything That Rises Must Converge Flannery O Connor died August 3, 1964 She was thirty nine years old She was buried the next day at Memory Hill Cemetery in Millidgeville, Georgia Today, Andalusia is a public shrine Whether one will find any chickens that walk backward is a question that one must determine alone.In 1971, Robert Giroux published The Complete Short Stories of Flannery O Connor It won the National Book Award in 1972 Robert Giroux accepted the award on her behalf Backstage a celebrated author, whom Gooch had the good grace not to name, complained to Giroux, Do you really think Flannery O Connor was a great writer She s such a Roman Catholic Giroux responded, I m surprised at you, to misjudge her so completely If she were here, she d set you straight She d impress you You d have a hard time out talking her In truth, O Connor would have said, Whoever invented cocktail parties should be drawn and quartered In 1988, the Library of America chose Flannery O Connor as the first author born in the 20th Century who works would be published in this canonical selection of writings That book stays on my bedside table. I write only about two hours every day because that s all the energy I have, but I don t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same placesomething goes on that makes it easier when it does come well And the fact is if you don t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won t be sitting there This piecing together of snippets from Flannery O Connor s writing life was my favorite takeaway from the biography The entire narrative reads like a smorgasbord of quotes and correspondence which at times gets exhaustive Yet there are many instances where encouraging revelations pierce the narrative It was interesting to learn that the idea for this book first came about when the biographer Brad Gooch reached out to Sally Fitzgerald a family friend of the O Connor family and stated his interest in writing the biography and she sort of snuffed him She was writing a biography that could overlap, she told him, adding that should she ever feel the need of an assistant she would think of him Decades later, still no book Fitzgerald had died with an unfinished manuscript So the man who considered O Connor his favorite fiction writer, decided to write the story of her life.While the story is partly a sad one because Flannery O Connor died at age thirty nine from lupus a condition in which the immune system forms antibodies that attacks its own connective tissue , it is also an inspirational story If you like O Connor s short stories or if you admire stories from the south and love hearing of the intermingling of Southern writers, you would enjoy reading this It is also the writer s read because you get to see young Flannery develop into a writer spending time writing at a MFA program and as a writing fellow She was a feisty recluse who spent so much time perfecting her writing skills, that she was confident in it You get that writing became her companion When she was alone, she would pull down the shades and sit at her typewriter with a pile of yellow paper, writing and rewriting If she wasn t writing, she was reading. While I am not an avid fan of Flannery O Connor s work, I do recognize that she was one of the best American writers of short fiction This book is the story of a gifted and complicated woman who was determined to persevere despite her differences and her disability, which cut her life short The book begins with the image of a five year old Flannery and her chickens being filmed by Pathe Newsreel Company Why film this Because how many little girls do you know who could teach chickens to walk backwards Only Flannery could do that She had a love of birds and later raised peacocks She was born in Savannah, Georgia and the only child of Edward O Connor unsuccessful real estate agent and his wife, Regina 1n 1937 her father was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus and which led to his death in 1941 Flannery, 15 years old, was devastated She lived reclusively with her mother at Andalusia, the family farm in Milledgeville, Ga.After graduating high school, she went to Georgia State College for Woman She had a brief stint as a cartoonist at the College and graduated with a degree in Social Science In 1946 she was accepted in the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she first went to study journalism While there she got to know several important writers and critics who lectured or taught in the program, among them Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Robie Macauley, Austin Warren and Andrew Lytle Some of her stories and cartoons were published in the Sewanee Review In 1949, she stayed with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald in Redding, CT She propelled herself at the Yaddo, the artists colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y When she went to the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, she said, she didn t know a short story from an ad in the newspaper Yet she quickly became a star there and scared the boys to death with her irony, as a teacher put it.In 1951, she was she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, and returned home to her ancestral farm, Andalusia, in GA She was given crutches, started with hair loss, and a watermelon face She stated, I have never been anywhere but sick In a sense, sickness is a place instructive than a long trip to Europe O Connor was deeply religious She was a devout Catholic, a strange thing to be in Georgia From the very beginning of her life she was already an outsider Along with her fatal illness, her other main influence was God Right to the end, she attended daily mass at 7am, fifth pew on the right Although she was a devout Catholic, almost all of her characters, haunted, tested, and redeemed, are Protestant Although she was expected to live only five years, she managed fourteen In 1964 Flannery O Connor, died at the age of 39 She had published thirty one stories and two novels Reading this book was very inspiring to me, since I live with the same diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. O Connor is a personal favorite, and this biography captures a great deal of what was both endearing and tragic about a woman who produced some of the most enduring and transformative fiction to emerge from the United States before her death from lupus at age 39 Gooch gives Flannery s wit, faith, and guarded nature plenty of ink, and in doing so captures what continues to draw so many to her work And the work deservedly remains central throughout Her stories remained her focus even until the end, and it s Gooch s commitment to those stories and the soul that O Connor poured into them that makes Flannery such a great portrait of such a great writer Josh CormanFrom Our Favorite Biographies of Dead Writers is not hard to imagine there being countless people than I who are complete opposites of Mary Flannery O Connor To think she was such a serious Catholic who almost never missed a 7AM mass unless she was sick enough to be in hospital or on her death bed To imagine she never ever had sex with anyone, and the only time she ever came close was in the awful tooth kiss she had with an early male suitor At least if we believe the writings of her biographer, Brad Gooch, who portrayed our Miss O Connor in the most dreadful of terms as if she were a story written for a newspaper flash The facts went on and on, if they were indeed the facts, and the reportage never ceased to not overwhelm me Flannery O Connor was character enough to overwhelm anyone who got to know her It is obvious the reader of this biography never will In my own confession I admit to reading O Connor only in the company of A Good Man Is Hard To Find and having little interest in reading much else the woman wrote But that story of The Misfit alone was worth all the tea in China, given that I am not the least concerned with tea or the money I could make off it Let s just say for the sake of argument that Flannery wasn t interested in men or women sexually, that she was obsessed with her bible and theological studies, and the birds and her mother gave her all the attention she actually required Let s say that writing gave her the impetus to go on living That fame was a fleeting romance she never wanted to advance past the occasional lecture or public reading of her work required by her publishers But what kind of story is that And remember, Flannery herself said her life wouldn t be one for biographers anyway as all it mostly consisted of was her daily round trip from the steps off her kitchen onto the path toward the hen house Her biographer, Brad Gooch, has been acclaimed and his work featured in numerous magazines He is a professor of English at William Paterson University He earned his PhD at Columbia University But he writes like a lady wannabe all made up in furs and dangling gaudy jewelry I felt as if I was reading a society gossip column instead of an academic work of high stature Gooch was even pretentious enough to use the ghastly word genuflected at least twice too many times In previous criticism of other works I have argued how necessary it is for the writer of creative non fiction to invest something of himself in the book, to make it personal Writers such as Paul Hendrickson Hemingway s Boat would have been a better choice for a compelling and interesting story about Flannery O Connor At the very least the sex would have been better One example regards the relationship between O Connor and Erik Langkjaer Their relationship was becoming quite intimate according to this biographer From the quoted words of Langkjaer we learn that Flannery was remarkably inexperienced sexually for a woman of her age She was quite prepared to receive a kiss from Erik when he initially made his advance to do so But what he found was a feeling as if kissing a skeleton The woman was stiff, her mouth lacked resilience, and his own lips touched her teeth rather than her lips They were interrupted by a stray couple from a nearby parked car who poked their heads in, which Flannery seemed to be overjoyed in with the disturbance Needless to say the relationship between the couple was different from then on, and Erik Langkjaer went on to marry someone else and keep a geographical distance from O Connor though they remained pen pals for some time after the awkward incident But why didn t Gooch handle the story better Surely there are anecdotes regarding all her intimate relationships that Gooch could have researched and offered another point of view There was nothing of Gooch in this book and that is where he failed The biographer has to have a stake in what he is writing about He has to make it personal After reading this book, Flannery O Connor remains for me at least as large a mystery now as she was before I started This book was basically straight reporting, and how reliable it is could be debatable She obviously had a few friends who could have offered had their own stories been brought to the page as Paul Hendrickson is want to do with the subjects he chooses to write and learn about But Brad Hooch obviously doesn t care about his subject But he ll take the acclaim and the rewards that the literati deems fitting for an academic the stature of a Brad Hooch, which isn t saying much for the rest of the serious, and creative, literary world Some might say I am being too harsh with Brad Hooch, but I am harsh with others and Brad Hooch does not get special treatment from me because of somebody else s agenda which may or may not hurt me And for the record I have been equally hard on another biographer much highly respected than the anointed Brad Hooch Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Steve Jobs, gave us straight reportage, and though Isaacson had a very interesting subject who could, and did, carry the book just on his own terms and face of who he was, Isaacson did nothing creative in the telling of the complex story possible In other words, Isaacson put nothing of himself on the page He never got personal I have been also equally harsh with translators such as the well known editor, poet, and translator Jonathan Galassi who translated the poems of Eugenio Montale brilliantly but can t write a poem of his own worth salt Or how about the translator George Zsirtes whom I think brilliant in his work on Laszlo Krasznahorkai but awful in his translation of Sandor Marai Fact is, I want I want a new biography of Flannery O Connor that makes me want to read her propaganda, something solid that makes me believe in her church, proof that we all are sinners, and that sex is bad or it isn t, or that having friends is even worse Yes, give me that book and I will write a favorable review of it. I do not know whether this is the best biography of Flannery O Connor but it is certainly an excellent one.Brad Gooch thoroughly discusses the time line and chronology of events of O Connor s life, giving the reader a deeper understanding of the person behind those disturbing Gothic stories.We realize that O Connor was not simply making up these stories but was reporting what she saw in her own family, on the cattle farm she and her widowed mother lived on, and the hired help who populated it.We gain just how profound her Catholic faith was to her and how seamlessly she weaves that faith into each and every story, yet without preaching or creating pasty, smiley, saints Flannery s characters are as rough edged as the teeth of a saw She does not spare the reader the worst human nature has to offer.It is interesting to me that O Connor created a number of the women characters after her mother Flannery O Connor was especially close to her father and his untimely death to lupus,a disease that would later claim her own life at 39, left an indelible mark on her Her mother was an overbearing, narrow minded Southern gentrified lady, with all the bigoted and racist attitudes her background and era allowed She trod rough shod over her daughter, who, as she became increasingly sick had to rely and on someone who had difficulty in understanding and perhaps even loving her.Perhaps the lack of affection was mutual Many of the women in O Connor s stories who came to dastardly ends bore no little resemblance to her mother A friend voiced concern to Flannery that her mother would surely recognize herself in the stories O Connor assured her that her mother Doesn t ever read my stories They put her to sleep Quite the irony for one of America s great writers to be unrecognized by her own family as she lived her unobtrusive life on a remote farm. I m never certain how to judge biographies, especially when as is the case with this one there s not much to compare it to unlike, say, bios of Sylvia Plath, when there are about four trillion, and most of them are awful Nevertheless, I think I can safely five star this one Flannery has a bit of a slow start, and you think for a moment that perhaps Ms O Connor was right that her personal history wasn t worthy of a biography But likely, Gooch simply didn t have a lot of material to work with from her childhood, and the first chapter or so became histories of Milledgeville or O Connor s ancestry which, frankly, just wasn t as intriguing to me as she was But there are three things, among many, that this biography notably accomplishes one, Gooch creates an engaging and sensible narrative for her life the chapters almost work thematically, even though the book is organized chronologically two, it preserves the complexities of O Connor s life and her views particularly on the race problem, the stirrings of the Civil Rights movement in Georgia, as well as her views on homosexuality, particularly through her relationships with Maryat Lee and Betty Hester and three, it captures the incredible humor O Connor injects into her bleakest works and allows us to laugh with her, even in the face of seemingly terrible ordeals, while maintaining her dignity through it all.I don t know about you, but reading a biography is, for me, an opportunity to make a new friend I truly begin, when a biography is good that is, to feel as though I know the subject of the book I feel really fortunate to have been able to befriend Flannery for the week or so it took me to work through this Perhaps strange is my perpetual sadness when I come to deaths in biographies this happened with every Plath bio I ve read, with Diane Middlebrook s wonderful bio on Anne Sexton, with a work on Emily Bronte I always seem to feel that something will work out differently, if I ve invested enough into their lives That perhaps this time, Sylvia and Anne won t gas themselves that Emily won t become ill at Branwell s funeral that Flannery s lupus won t fatally flare up after her surgery It s always a shock to come to that moment in a biography, for me, and perhaps that just makes me slightly insane I m not sure But to me, this is also the test of whether or not a biography has succeeded if I m so concerned with changing the ending, there must have been something there that held me along the way.Gooch is a powerful writer, who perhaps has a bit of an agenda, but I think justifiably so A couple of reviews here have said that they felt he hated Flannery, which is a criticism I couldn t disagree with I think Gooch has a great love of her, but manages quite well, I should add to balance the affection with a critical distance As I said, perhaps the most significant accomplishment of this biography is that he brought her back to life, all of her contradictions intact Not to mention the fact that I was laughing aloud up until mere pages before Flannery died she evidently referred to Andalusia at this point, with three members of the family rehabilitating in the house, as Jolly Corners Rest Home In short, it s a great book even if you re not all that familiar with her work For instance, I ve only read her collection A Good Man is Hard to Find but thankfully, the biography has inspired me to return to those stories and finally get around to the rest of her work which has sat on my shelves for well nigh a year now this year Would have been among my favorite books of last year if I d finished in time, but it should easily be among my faves for 2010 Highly recommended. *Download Book ☊ Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor ☠ The Landscape Of American Literature Was Fundamentally Changed When Flannery O Connor Stepped Onto The Scene With Her First Published Book, Wise Blood, In Her Fierce, Sometimes Comic Novels And Stories Reflected The Darkly Funny, Vibrant, And Theologically Sophisticated Woman Who Wrote Them Brad Gooch Brings To Life O Connor S Significant Friendships With Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Walker Percy, And James Dickey Among Others And Her Deeply Felt Convictions, As Expressed In Her Communications With Thomas Merton, Elizabeth Bishop, And Betty Hester Hester Was Famously Known As A In O Connor S Collected Letters, The Habit Of Being, And A Large Cache Of Correspondence To Her From O Connor Was Made Available To Scholars, Including Brad Gooch, In O Connor S Capacity To Live Fully Despite The Chronic Disease That Eventually Confined Her To Her Mother S Farm In Georgia Is Illuminated In This Engaging And Authoritative BiographyAISE FOR FLANNERY Flannery O Connor, One Of The Best American Writers Of Short Fiction, Has Found Her Ideal Biographer In Brad Gooch With Elegance And Fairness, Gooch Deals With The Sensitive Areas Of Race And Religion In O Connor S Life He Also Takes Us Back To Those Heady Days After The War When O Connor Studied Creative Writing At Iowa There Is Much That Is New In This Book, But, Important, Everything Is Presented In A Strong, Clear Light Edmund White This Splendid Biography Gives Us No Saint Or Martyr But The Story Of A Gifted And Complicated Woman, Bent On Making The Best Of The Difficult Hand Fate Has Dealt Her, Whether It Is With Grit And Humor Or With An Abiding Desire To Make Palpable To Readers The Terrible Mystery Of God S Grace Frances Kiernan, Author Of Seeing Mary Plain A Life Of Mary McCarthyA Good Biographer Is Hard To Find Brad Gooch Is Not Merely Good He Is Extraordinary Blessed With The Eye And Ear Of A Novelist, He Has Composed The Life That Admirers Of The Fierce And Hilarious Georgia Genius Have Long Been Hoping For Joel Conarroe, President Emeritus, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Brad Gooch has written a totally engaging biopic on one of the 20th Century s greatest writers Flannery herself thought her life too dull to ever have any biographies written about it, but Professor Gooch rewards us with a story both tragic and beautiful That Flannery died at age 39 from lupus is one of the greater tragedies in literary history Much like the talk about Mozart, the mind shudders at the thought of all the work she might have produced had she been allowed to live Nevertheless, what she left is fantastic Gooch delves into O Connor s early childhood in Savannah, Georgia, as well as giving an overview of her Catholic schooling up to her undergraduate years From there it s on to the University of Iowa, then Manhattan and Yaddo, where she makes an impression on the likes of Robert Lowell Alas it is at this moment where her illness begins to take shape, and like many of her young characters, she is forced to return home to her mother in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she will live out the rest of her days Unlike say Jay Parini s recent bio on Faulkner, Professor Gooch does not examine O Connor s stories in great laser beam fashion That is, he covers each short story for the most part in a cursory way This by no means detracts from the biography, and probably helps the general reader However, those of us who have read and reread O Connor s work, would appreciate a stronger look at each story, as well as her two novels No matter, there are books out there that deal exclusively with O Connor s canon I guess I ll just have to travel to New Jersey and take one of Professor Gooch s classes at William Paterson University This biography on Flannery O Connor is highly recommended. The gifted O Connor once stated that she would merit no biography because lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy Brad Gooch, however, has done a thorough job teasing out the details of O Connor s short life and enduring legacy Although gracious and polite, Gooch was nonetheless admonished by critics for skimming over some of the eyebrow raising aspects of her life, such as the question of her sexuality and her contentious relationship with her mother Others complained that Gooch neglected to properly analyze O Connor s work and the genesis of her distinctive style Perhaps the gifted O Connor will always elude our attempts to understand her, and readers unfamiliar with the author should turn to her work however, her fans will come away from Flannery with a enhanced appreciation for her achievements.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.