'Southern, Shocking and Disciplined'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

'Southern, Shocking and Disciplined'


Byline: James E. Person Jr., SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For many years, Flannery O' Connor (1925-1964) has been viewed in much the same light as Harper Lee, each being a woman of the Deep South who crafted a small body of distinguished fiction while maintaining what some observers have called a reclusive personal life. The great difference between the two writers seemed to be that while Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a straightforward narrative journey into a recognizable Depression-era small town, O'Connor's novels and short stories are often seen as journeys into a world of bizarre characters, metaphysics and symbols.

Biographer Brad Gooch rightly describes the fictional realm of O'Connor as one filled with ribald humor, gargoyled faces and bodies, frontal action, threats of violence, and, most of all, the subtle tug of a spiritual quest in a dark universe animated by grace and significance. Best to approach her with respectful caution. No wonder the critic Julian Symons, upon reviewing her first novel, Wise Blood, seemed to sense that there was something important here - he just wasn't exactly sure what. Miss O'Connor may become an important writer, he ventured. She is certainly a serious one.

In Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, Mr. Gooch has crafted the first serious biography of the distinguished Georgia writer, and in doing so he clears away some misconceptions about O'Connor and clarifies much about her life and work. Perhaps first and foremost, the author - a professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey and biographer of Frank O'Hara - dispels the notion that O'Connor was a recluse. She certainly sought privacy to spend her time writing and reading, but she also traveled widely within the eastern United States on speaking engagements and visits to friends.

Born into a comfortable middle-class Roman Catholic family in Savannah, Mary Flannery O'Connor was an only child and had few close friends during her childhood. The girl described by Mr. Gooch seems to have been quiet and creative, enjoying drawing - particularly cartooning - and writing stories. Raised and schooled in the Church, she seems to have suffered no identity crisis or period of rebellion in embracing the ancient faith and learning the Church's doctrines and dogma. Mary Flannery (as she was called throughout her early life) accepted what she was taught as life-giving and natural; still, she was no plaster saint, and as she matured she developed a delightfully wry sense of humor and a satirist's eye.

These qualities served her well throughout high school and college, where she gained a reputation on the campus of Georgia State College for Women as both a studious lone wolf and as a formidable cartoonist for campus publications. In college, she also showed strong talent as a writer and earned a scholarship for postgraduate work during the mid- 1940s at the University of Iowa. There, at the famous Writer's Workshop, her fiction was critiqued by the likes of John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Andrew Lytle and other literary giants of the day. At Iowa, O'Connor began crafting an early draft of her novel Wise Blood, which was seven years in the works.

During those years, O'Connor met some of the closest and most influential friends of her life, including novelist Caroline Gordon, editor Robert Giroux, and writers Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, as well as the poet Robert Lowell, whom O'Connor met after her Iowa years at Yaddo, the artists' colony in upstate New York. Even at that early time in her yet-unborn career, she evidenced a maturity of mind and focus that Lowell later recalled, writing that at Yaddo, She had already really mastered and found her themes and style, knew she wouldn't marry, would be Southern, shocking and disciplined. In a blunt, disdainful yet somehow very unpretentious and modest way, I think she knew how good she was. Indeed, what Mr. Gooch's biography reveals is that from the time O'Connor began writing in earnest, at Iowa and Yaddo, she was certain that she had the talent to be a successful writer and pursued that vision with single-minded determination. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

'Southern, Shocking and Disciplined'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.