Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor

by Brad Gooch
     
 

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The landscape of American literature was fundamentally changed when Flannery O'Connor stepped onto the scene with her first published book, Wise Blood, in 1952. 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…  See more details below

Overview

The landscape of American literature was fundamentally changed when Flannery O'Connor stepped onto the scene with her first published book, Wise Blood, in 1952. 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 2006. 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 biography.

PRAISE 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, more 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 McCarthy

"A 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

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
O'Connor has been long overdue for the major biography that Mr. Gooch has written. Flannery reveals not only why its brilliantly persnickety subject warrants such attention but also why it has been so slow in coming…What makes Flannery so valuable is the degree of intimacy with which it captures O’Connor's sensibility
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
[Gooch] has done an earnest, respectful but mercifully not hagiographic job…the book is for the most part lucidly written and neither excessively long nor riddled with extraneous detail…Whether Gooch's conscientious, respectful biography will bring new readers to her work is doubtful, since literary biographies rarely sell as well as their authors and publishers wish, but readers who already know that work will be glad to have it.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Gooch (City Poet:The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara) offers a surprisingly bloodless biography of Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964), who, despite the author's diligent scholarship, remains enigmatic. She emerges only in her excerpted letters, speeches and fiction, where she is as sharp-tongued, censorious, piteously observant and mordantly funny as her beloved short stories. There is little genuinely interesting new material, but there are small gems-the full story of O'Connor's friendship with the mysterious A. of her letters, for instance. Perhaps mindful of the writer's dislike of being exposed in print, Gooch errs on the side of delicacy; he does not sufficiently explore her attitudes toward blacks and how the early onset of lupus left her sequestered on her mother's Georgia farm, without the "male companionship" she craved. Instead, he plumbs O'Connor's fiction for buried fragments of her daily life, and the revelations are hardly astonishing. Readers looking for more startling tidbits will be disappointed by this account that brims with the quiet satisfactions the author took in her industry ("I sit all day typing and grinning like the Cheshire cat"), her faith, friends and stoic approach to a debilitating disease. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Feb. 25)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Taut biography of the iconic Southern short-story writer and novelist. Building on scholarly research and O'Connor's work, biographer/novelist Gooch (English/William Paterson Univ.; Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America, 2002, etc.) delivers a sound appraisal of the author best known for her racially charged, tragicomic, unsentimental portraits of the South. The only child of devoutly Catholic parents, O'Connor (1925-64) was raised among affluent whites in Milledgeville, Ga., where the local penitentiary, insane asylum and elite Georgia State College for Women (she was class of '45) helped shape her literary landscape. In 1946, O'Connor gained admission to the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her perfectly pitched sagas about religious fanatics and backwoods eccentrics quickly established her as a writer of uncommon talent and reach. O'Connor's blithe use of the epithet "nigger" in her fiction and vast correspondence also made her a controversial figure in American letters, then and now. Stricken with lupus in her mid-20s, she retreated to Andalusia, her family's sprawling farm on the outskirts of Milledgeville. There, under the dutiful, if challenging care of her widowed mother, she crafted such scintillatingly sardonic stories as "Good Country People," "Revelation" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge." She also began to breed the exotic peacocks now routinely linked with her name. Gooch offers little that has not been previously examined in scores of works on the larger-than-life author, dead at 39. Nor does he indulge those who like juicy gossip in their literary bios. He gives short shrift to the speculation surrounding O'Connor's ardent correspondence with lesbianjournalist Betty Hester, and quotes the Danish-born textbook salesman who befriended her in the '50s dismissing rumors of their alleged sexual liaison. Unlike its subject, respectably tame. Agent: Joy Harris/Joy Harris Agency
Booklist
Gooch comfortably traces [Flannery O'Connor's] fiction to its real-life roots in a meticulous yet seemingly effortless writing style, resulting in the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus for general readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fiction.
Elissa Schappell
O'Connor lives and breathes—and spits fire—in Brad Gooch's portrait of the too short life of the peacock-loving writer who dealt in the dark grotesqueries of human nature.
Vanity Fair
David Ulin
Gooch is brilliant on [O'Connor's] fiction, passionate and smart, able to contextualize both the individual pieces and the scope of the career.
Los Angeles Times
Adam Begley
Excellent...Mr. Gooch's is patient and tactful with the publicity-shy and dauntingly complex O'Connor. His book is a welcome introduction to the quiet, narrow life of a fiercely funny and unnervingly powerful writer.
The New York Observer
Floyd Skloot
The story Gooch tells is amply shaded and evocatively detailed...It is a poignant, inspiring story of one brave, dedicated, brilliant writer.
The Boston Globe
Time
"It's incredible that this is the first biography of the great Southern writer Flannery O'Connor.... As Brad Gooch shows, her life was as dark and rich and dense with meaning as her fiction is."
The New Yorker
"Impressive. . . Gooch's account is meticulous."
Charles Matthews
This is one of those rare biographies that makes the writer almost as fascinating as what she wrote.
The Houston Chronicle
Joyce Carol Oates
In his engaging, sympathetic, and yet intellectually scrupulous biography of O'Connor, Brad Gooch provides the ideal biographical commentary.
New York Review of Books
Charles Matthews - The Houston Chronicle
"This is one of those rare biographies that makes the writer almost as fascinating as what she wrote."
Joyce Carol Oates - New York Review of Books
"In his engaging, sympathetic, and yet intellectually scrupulous biography of O'Connor, Brad Gooch provides the ideal biographical commentary."
Janet Maslin - New York Times
"Rapt, authoritative...What makes Flannery so valuable is the degree of intimacy with which it captures O'Connor's sensibility."
David Ulin - Los Angeles Times
"Gooch is brilliant on [O'Connor's] fiction, passionate and smart, able to contextualize both the individual pieces and the scope of the career."
Booklist (starred review)
"Gooch comfortably traces [Flannery O'Connor's] fiction to its real-life roots in a meticulous yet seemingly effortless writing style, resulting in the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus for general readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fiction."
Adam Begley - The New York Observer
"Excellent...Mr. Gooch's is patient and tactful with the publicity-shy and dauntingly complex O'Connor. His book is a welcome introduction to the quiet, narrow life of a fiercely funny and unnervingly powerful writer."
Floyd Skloot - The Boston Globe
"The story Gooch tells is amply shaded and evocatively detailed...It is a poignant, inspiring story of one brave, dedicated, brilliant writer."
Elissa Schappell - Vanity Fair
"O'Connor lives and breathes--and spits fire--in Brad Gooch's portrait of the too short life of the peacock-loving writer who dealt in the dark grotesqueries of human nature."
From the Publisher
"Gooch comfortably traces [Flannery O'Connor's] fiction to its real-life roots in a meticulous yet seemingly effortless writing style, resulting in the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus for general readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fiction."—Booklist (starred review)"

Rapt, authoritative...What makes Flannery so valuable is the degree of intimacy with which it captures O'Connor's sensibility." —Janet Maslin, New York Times"

Gooch's biography is a marvel of concision but skimps on nothing.... If O'Connor's writing glows with edged comic genius, biographer Gooch is himself no slouch. If a library is to have only one book on Flannery O'Connor, this should be it. Highly recommended."—Library Journal"

Gooch is brilliant on [O'Connor's] fiction, passionate and smart, able to contextualize both the individual pieces and the scope of the career."—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times"

Excellent...Mr. Gooch's is patient and tactful with the publicity-shy and dauntingly complex O'Connor. His book is a welcome introduction to the quiet, narrow life of a fiercely funny and unnervingly powerful writer."—Adam Begley, The New York Observer"

The story Gooch tells is amply shaded and evocatively detailed...It is a poignant, inspiring story of one brave, dedicated, brilliant writer."—Floyd Skloot, The Boston Globe"

It's incredible that this is the first biography of the great Southern writer Flannery O'Connor.... As Brad Gooch shows, her life was as dark and rich and dense with meaning as her fiction is."—Time"

Impressive. . . Gooch's account is meticulous."—The New Yorker"

This is one of those rare biographies that makes the writer almost as fascinating as what she wrote."—Charles Matthews, The Houston Chronicle"

In his engaging, sympathetic, and yet intellectually scrupulous biography of O'Connor, Brad Gooch provides the ideal biographical commentary."—Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

Library Journal
Reading the biographies of both O’Connor and Lowell might disappoint some of Carlene Bauer’s fans as the fictional license she took will be fully revealed. O’Connor and Lowell were friends, but never lovers, and Frances’s life progresses in ways O’Connor herself never had the chance to experience. However, others might enjoy learning more about the lives of these two powerhouse artists. Mariani’s biography of Lowell covers the expected features of his relationships, illness, and life history (including his position as a member of one of the oldest European families in the U.S.), but is most notable for its attention to Lowell’s poetry, work habits, and reading life. Gooch’s biography of O’Connor details her life and illness, her circle of friends, her Southern roots and religious devotions, as well as her profoundly influential and controversial work and its legacy.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316040655
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
02/25/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
648,816
File size:
549 KB

Meet the Author

Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet, as well as other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

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