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Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor Paperback – March 15, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Drawing on recently unsealed letters and an impressive array of interviews, Gooch provides the first major biography of Flannery O�Connor since she died in 1964, at the age of thirty-nine. He presents a writer influenced by the early death of her father and the retreat from city life to country; an Irish Catholic upbringing that evolved into an adult fascination with theology; and a Southern small-town culture whose matrons, including O�Connor�s mother, were happy for her success but put off by the unladylike nature of her work��Everybody here shakes my hand but nobody reads my stories.� Though she spent time in both the Midwest and the Northeast, lupus narrowed the circle of her life to a dairy farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she collected exotic birds. Gooch�s account is meticulous, but O�Connor�s sedate, chaste life is pale in comparison with her fantastic fiction�a contrast that underscores her inscrutable genius.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1 edition (March 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316018996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316018999
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very long time ago in a graduate English course I read all the fiction of Flannery O'Connor and have not read her since. Brad Gooch's new biography FLANNERY: A LIFE OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR convinced me that I should reread her, and that is no small compliment for a biographer. Too often a pedestrian account of some favorite writer's life will leave me unmoved--I have yet to finish a biography of Emily Dickinson although I have tried to read several-- although that is certainly not the case with Mr. Gooch. From the opening paragraph of his telling of the five-year-old Mary Flannery's (she was called both names as a child) visit by a Pathe newsreel company camerman for the purpose of filming her bantam chicken walking backwards to the sad account of the death and funeral of one of America's most celebrated writers, the story seldom drags.

Born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah of Irish Catholic parents, Edward and Regina O'Connor, Flannery lived there until she was thirteen when the family moved to Milledgeville, Georgia. Her beloved father died in 1941 at the young age of 45 of lupus, the disease that would eventually kill Flannery. She attended Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville, then the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Yaddo, the artists' colony in upstate New York. Stricken with lupus at 25, O'Connor returned to Milledgeville and lived there for the rest of her too short life-- she died at the age of 39--with her mother on a dairy farm surrounded by peacocks and other animals as well as both black and white farmworkers, some of whom would become models for the "freaks" she wrote about in her fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
I've loved Flannery O'Connor since I was in college; back then, I read a story a night before I went to bed. I tried to turn my friends onto her but to no avail, even despite my overenthusiastic description of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" as the worst family vacation story ever. It was then that I found an essay on O'Connor by Alice Walker that had originally been published in "Ms." magazine in the 70s. It made me curious about who O'Connor was but despite the descriptions of her as a Southern Catholic writer who had lupus and loved peacocks, I knew very little.

Only last summer I was looking through the holdings at the local library and was disappointed at the lack of biographical works on O'Connor. And six months later, here we are with Brad Gooch's brand new biography. It's astonishing to me that this is the first major biography for such a major and influential twentieth-century writer. (As compared to the few biographies that were part of a series on major authors that were best used as references for students - but what about the rest of us?) O'Connor died in 1964 so this book has been a long time coming and it's been worth the wait.

Gooch, whose biography of the poet Frank O'Hara (another subject with a life cut short) was a great achievement, has written an accessible and thoroughly entertaining work on the short life but indelible career of one of my favorite authors. The background on O'Connor and her writing is invaluable as is the insight into how many characters in her stories were inspired by her own mother, Regina including the memorable, doomed Mrs. May from "Greenleaf." Gooch gives us more insight into the "Southern Catholic writer," showing us the fascinating woman whose knowledge of her impending fate spurred her into producing some amazing fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Brad Gooch's "Flannery" passes the test fundamental test for excellence in a biography: when the book is finished the reader fundamentally understands the subject of the book in a way he or she did not before.

Like many readers of my generation (graduated high school 1978), I had a good introduction to Miss O'Connor's short stories - sprung on us with relish by an English teacher from the South. Compared with most of the other materials we were covering those stories were shocking to say the least. Over the years I wondered what kind of life the author must have led to produce those stories - both the hard edges and the evident spirtuality they contained. We (those outside the literary world) did not know much about O'Connor in that era - only that she was a serious Roman Catholic and had died young after a long fight with Lupus.

Brad Gooch's exhaustive research surely paid off as he fills in the details - about her family life, her medical conditions, her spirtual life and both the joys and difficulties of her writing. Perhaps what surprised me the most were the legion of friends and fans this very unusual women attracted living, as she did, a rather quiet life in a generally quiet place.

Professor Gooch provides his readers with a very vivid portrait of Miss O'Connor's struggles - and how her faith and her sickness found their way into her works. As a Roman Catholic myself, reflecting on Miss O'Connor's strong faith in the face of her difficulties through this biography seemed very fitting for Lent.

I suspect, based upon the lengthy acknowledgements and sources cited (these should certainly be read) that Professor Gooch could have written a far longer book. I am glad he did not. The size, scope and pacing were all excellent.

I commend this biography to any one who ever wondered about Flannery O'Connor or, indeed, the American literary scene after the War.
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