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.
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.
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor 4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Before I begin, I must tell you, I have never read anything by Flannery O' Connor. I may have glanced at a story of hers in high school but that was so long ago. This might have hampered my enjoyment of Gooch's novel if it had been less interesting and badly written but, thankfully, Flannery was an interesting read in itself.
I was a bit worried when I started reading because of my lack of knowledge about Flannery O'Connor. I was surprised when I immediately became engrossed in Flannery's life. I became attached to her and I wanted to know more about her. She was quite the quirky character. I often found myself laughing out loud at something she said or did. She was quite the character and I really enjoyed getting to know her.
Flannery was an extremely well-written book. It was one of the few biographies that I have read that managed to be informative but not overbearing. I thought it was a really balanced portrayal of Flannery O'Connor. The pictures also enhanced the material in the book. They provided an excellent visual reference point. Sometime I find that pictures are chosen for aesthetics rather than to serve a purpose but that definitely was not the case with this biography. When I wanted to get a mental image of a place that O'Connor frequented, I looked in the picture insert. I did at points become confused as to who was who because of the constant parade of people through O'Connor's life but after a while the names became familiar and easy to remember when they were referenced again.
For someone who has never read a word of Flannery O'Connor (that she can remember), I really became attached to her. I want to read her works now. And I think I will. Someday.
More than 1 year ago
I gave this as a gift to someone very fond of American literature, someone who's read a lot of O'Connor (including another biography), and she raved about it--couldn't stop reading it.
markfinl on LibraryThing
More than 1 year ago
This book is a must for anyone, like me, who loves Flannery O'Connor's work. Her story is remarkable in that someone who lived such a circumscribed life was able to have such a lasting impact on literature. Because of the lupus that killed her at 36, Flannery lived most of her adult life as isolated as Emily Dickinson. Since she has a small body of work and her stories are often grotesque, she was a mysterious figure to me until I read this biography. Now I can read her stories and understand where they come from. Her devout Catholicism and her physical and mental isolation account in large part for the world of her stories. My only quibble with the biography is that it ends rather abruptly, with little discussion about how and why she is more important writer in death than she was in life. It occurred to me while reading this that first, I have been reading Flannery O'Connor for almost as long as she was alive and secondly, were she still alive she would be about the same age as the current greatest living short story writer, William Trevor. What wonders might she have produced had she lived!
lisanicholas on LibraryThing
More than 1 year ago
In the midst of re-reading _The Habit of Being _ (a collection of Flannery O'Connor's correspondence) and her stories & occasional writings, I happened on this recent biography at a bargain price. I was interested in filling in some of the gaps in the writer's life, and this bio was an opportunity to do that. The chief strength of this biography is the way the author shows how Flannery O'Connor seized on details of her (relatively circumscribed) life and (chiefly literary) acquaintance for the genesis of many of her stories. The potential danger of this, which Gooch largely (although sometimes just barely) sidesteps, is that it may give the impression that O'Connor's fiction was largely a way to externalize and improve on the events and preoccupations of her personal life. Anyone who is already familiar with her stories will probably not be too disturbed by this treatment, but I think some readers of the biography who are not yet well-acquainted with O'Connor's fiction may have their reception of the stories, when they do eventually read them, tainted by the notion that the stories are all in some way "autobiographical." Caveat lector. I suppose Gooch chose this way of recounting O'Connor's life, in part at least, because otherwise the biography would be a fairly bare tale (Flannery herself famously opined that no one would ever write the story of her life because it was so uneventful). By showing how personal details are reflected in her stories, the biographer manages to show that Flannery's imagination was so fertile that any small detail of her daily life could light a creative spark that she would fan into a blaze of glorious story-telling. Indeed, the account of her early years, for which Gooch depended on snippets of memories from people who knew her only slightly or from a distance, is the weakest part of the book, and the least sympathetic to the subject.I would say that the weakness of the book, which will trouble many O'Connor devotees, is the fact that, while he clearly admires O'Connor as a writer, the biographer does not seem very sympathetic toward, or understanding of, the fundamental moral and theological wellsprings of her life and work. Since Flannery O'Connor repeatedly insisted that such was the absolute source of her creativity and the unswerving orientation of her life, it seems to me a significant weakness in a biography that the biographer has such a tenuous grasp on what really animated the life he is writing.In the final analysis, I find this biography of Flannery O'Connor interesting, useful, but fundamentally flawed. I'm sorry that Sally Fitzgerald never finished her own biography of her friend's life, which would probably have given a much more sympathetic and understanding view, and which Brad Gooch mentions in his Acknowledgments as something that Fitzgerald worked on for many years but never completed. Nonetheless, I'm glad to have read Gooch's treatment of O'Connor's life, as it did what I had hoped, filling in the gaps left by _The Habit of Being_ and fleshing out some of the real-life characters who meant so much to her.
Lillian3 on LibraryThing
More than 1 year ago
Loved this look into Flannery's world ... and the possible events that inspired/influenced her stories.
kothomas on LibraryThing
More than 1 year ago
Flannery is a really well written biography. It made me want to go back and reread all Flannery O'Connor's short stories. The biography made me wish that I could have known her. I think that I would have liked her and I know that I admire the way she lived her short life.
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