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Flannery O'Connor: A Life Paperback – February 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572333057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572333055
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,740,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cash's scrupulously detailed biography, the result of a decade of research, offers readers many particulars about O'Connor's (1925-1964) life, but ultimately falls short on insight into one of America's finest and most enigmatic writers. Throughout her life, O'Connor (n‚e Mary Flannery O'Connor) wrestled with both faith and sexuality, yet Cash offers little of her own analysis to illuminate the writer's conflicts; she focuses, instead, on facts: the titles of O'Connor's college classes, the specifics of her travel itineraries. With such a methodical chronicling of the author's years from her childhood in Savannah, Ga., and her young adulthood nearby; her years at the University of Iowa and her stints in New York and Connecticut; and from her return to Milledgeville, Ga., to her untimely death at age 39 this volume sometimes feels like an extended encyclopedia entry. O'Connor emerges as intensely private, eccentric and self-contained, devoted to Catholicism and to her art, and dominated by her mother. Her most intense friendships were with women who were attracted to her both intellectually and also sexually; O'Connor's carnal desires appear to have been subsumed by her fierce imagination. When O'Connor experienced her first bout of lupus in 1950, her life was further circumscribed. In 1964 O'Connor died of kidney failure, her early death compounding the mystery of her character. And that is perhaps precisely how O'Connor, an advocate of New Criticism (which held that a writer's life had no bearing on his or her work) would have wished it. Cash's book is not the definitive account that O'Connor devotees have been waiting for, but despite its faults, it's a step in the right direction. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Mary Flannery O'Connor (1925-64) was a Southern writer and a Roman Catholic whose shrewdness, biting humor, and seeming lack of interest in cultural mores all contributed greatly to her unique literary voice. She spent most of her adult life in Milledgeville, GA, forced to live on a farm with her mother owing to lupus, the disease that eventually caused her early death. There she continued to write, receive guests, lecture (her main source of income), and correspond with a number of literary and personal friends. O'Connor's daily life may have seemed prosaic, but as revealed by her writings and this fine new biography her interests, irony, and cold eye were hardly conventional. Cash (English, James Madison Univ.) spent ten years researching this work, and it shows; while this is not a critical study, it is the first book to chronicle O'Connor's life in such painstaking detail. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert L. Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., IN
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roger Lathbury on January 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Better than *Publisher's Weekly* suggests, Jean Cash's life of Flannery O'Connor still it isn't all it could be. Its strengths are its fidelity to the events of O'Connor's largely unexciting life as a practicing writer and Catholic and, in this age of the doorstop biography, its modest length. Cash mines *The Habit of Being,* Sally Fitzgerald's 1979 collection of letters, and the archives she dutifully has read through. O'Connor's brilliance, orneriness, intractibility, deadpan humor, courage, honor, talent (at least by repute), and doggedness come through. In some ways, that's enough--four stars. However, one who finishes this book may still want more.
What is missing? An extended understanding of the interplay the fiction and the life, for one. Why did Hazel Motes and Julian and Tarwater and Rayber come out in just that form? When Cash discusses the connections between O'Connor's mother, Regina Cline O'Connor, and Mrs. Hopewell (in "Good Country People"), her book takes on life. More, more! Again, without naming it or discussing it at any length Cash points to the self-loathing that was the other side of O'Connor's spirituality and selflessness. The presentation needs pointing up, development.
For another, a sense of O'Connor's achievement as an artist. The fiction, which is what counts or we wouldn't be reading the life, is almost not there. My own judgment is that the two novels matter much less than and are ungainly compared to half a dozen stories, in which form perfectly embodies vision--with humor, intellectual force, and the many-sidedness of a great writer. This text needs more engagement with O'Connor's text.
Finally, Edward F. O'Connor, the father. His death, when his daughter was fifteen, surely underlies what Cash describes as the "matriarchal" world of the fiction.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brian Carpenter on May 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Flannery O'Connor is arguably one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. She was passionately Southern and passionately Catholic, dedicated to her craft and a consummate professional.
This is why I think she would have scorned her recent biography, written by Jean Cash.
Cash's work is merely competent. She has all the facts straight. The book is well-researched, and well documented. Cash has flipped over every O'Connor stone, but there are so few unpublished gems at this point, that the project seems to be simply one of repetition.
What makes Cash's biography especially defective is that she seems afraid to make qualitative judgments regarding O'Connor or her work. I suppose this can be good in other biographies of lesser-known literary figures. The biography falls short, in other words, precisely because of its attention to detail, and its lack of synthesis. There are times when it reads like a shopping list of O'Connor things, places, friends and relatives. Cash's prose falls lifeless into the annals of poorly-written biographies.
I only recall Cash voicing her opinion three times. She defends O'Connor's relationship with Maryat Lee as a perfectly heterosexual one. On another occasion, she defends O'Connor, who, throughout her life and private letters, made a few controversial statements regarding the Civil Rights movement: these have since tagged her as racist to some scholars. Cash also frequently asserts that O'Connor was not a reclusive person, a kind of 1950s Emily Dickenson. Of these assertions, only the second seems to have any direct bearing on her writing. It seems that her focus should have been directed to other facets of O'Connor's life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Cash's FLANNERY O'CONNOR: A LIFE is a noble attempt to define and to find the Southern Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor. However, though the biography is full of facts and details about O'Connor's studies and speaking tours and friendships, it is a book that features conclusions drawn from one or two events or incidents. This problem is particularly evident, it seems, in the opening chapters about O'Connor's early years.
Another nagging problem is the frequent errors in editing or writing: extra words, missing words, odd punctuation, and a strange abundance of parentheses when a simple revision would clarify the sentences. This reviewer wonders why such mistakes coat the book like red Georgia dust. If the book ever has another edition, it will need plenty of attention to bring it up to professional standards.
It's all too bad; the basics of a good biography are there, and the subject is fascinating.
Best advice: read O'Connor's works and save the biography for occasional filler if you have the interest.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This biography does what any good biography of a writer should: It invites you to run to the shelf to revisit the writer's work. As wickedly witty and charming as she was devout, Flannery O'Connor comes fully alive again in Jean Cash's careful detailing of her tragically brief life. Readers--including scholars and students--should welcome this rich portrait of the artist, particularly as it challenges some of the rampant misperceptions of O'Connor and her work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mull Reed on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book does what it's supposed to do. It tells you a lot about Flannery O'Connor, her likes and dislikes, her influences, how and where she spent her time. It's not meant to be a critical study. There are plenty of those. Most readers will find here details on a fascinating creative artist whose life was cut short by illness.
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