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Flannery O'Conner:
The Waning Years
Article and Photos by Kathleen Walls

 

 

Flannery O'Conner birthplace
(credit Flannery O'Conner home)
Flannery O'Conner is considered one of the most important American authors of the 20th century and perhaps the most important Southern woman in the field.  Her work is standard fare in many colleges. To understand Flannery O'Conner, the author of “Wise Blood,” “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and other stories, requires a pilgrimage to Georgia. You can visit her birthplace in Savannah. That  is an important point in her life naturally. Located at 207 East Charlton Street. the house museum is a modest,  three-story row house with narrow rooms decorated much as it was during the first thirteen years of Flannery's life.

However, it was during her  waning years, spend at her family farm near Milledgeville, that her talent came to full flower.  Andalusia  was her mother's  dairy farm at the time Flannery returned to Milledgeville in 1951. She had been living in Connecticut  but at that time was diagnosed with lupus, the same disease that had killed her father when Flannery was only fifteen.

Before being named Andalusia, her uncle Bernard Cline used it as his horse farm. He  called it Sorrel Farm.  Flannery told him she had met people while traveling who told her that the property previously was called Andalusia and she prevailed on him to call it that again. When Flannery and her mother moved to the farm, they  converted the parlor to Flannery's  bedroom and study since her health prohibited her climbing stairs. This was where she would spend the most literarly productive years of her life until her death of Lupus in 1964 at the age of thirty nine.

Andulusia 
When you roam about the house it is much as it was when Flannery lived there. Most of the furniture is original except the desk, chair and typewriter, which Regina O'Conner donated to the University of Georgia. You can see  the Hotpoint refrigerator  Flannery bought when she sold the move to The Life You Save May Be Your Own.

The Hill House is another important part of Andalusia. Jack and Louise Hill, an African American couple, who ran the dairy, and later beef farm, for Mrs. O'Conner lived there until Louise died in 1977. The Hill House is the latest part of the restoration.

Craig Amason, Director of the Flannery O'Conner-Andalusia Foundation, points out the importance of Andalusia.  "The landscape is such an important factor. It is more than a place where an author penned her fiction. It inspired those stories."

Flannery was a strange person. She had a dark sense of humor that was often misunderstood as exhibited in one of her quotes," Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."

 
One of the present day peacocks at Andulusia 
She fixated on certain things. Two of the most important facets of her life were her Roman Catholicism  and her birds. She was a lifelong fan of domestic birds. She had ducks chickens, geese swans, pheasants but her favorite was the peafowl. She had 40 or 50 of them and they roamed the grounds unpenned.  Religion and birds recur in her stories.

Her quest for truth rather than beauty and goodness is also apparent in her stories. He mother often asked her why she didn't write stories people liked. Her comments on truth reflect the answer. " The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. ... I preach there are all kinds of truth, your truth and somebody else's. But behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there's no truth."

Another interesting comment she made to a friend, Sally Hester, may reflect on her family life. "I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both.”

 
Flannery's room at Andulusi
She was a person of very inflexible habits and routines. She wrote two to three hours every morning then she and her mother had breakfast at Sanford House, a elegant restaurant that is now a house museum.  When she returned, she caught up on her correspondence  with friends.

 Craig Amason observed the rise in visitation to Andalusia and attributes it to the fact that, " Flannery O'Conner  is more popular than she has ever been. My theory is because she writes in the grotesque genera. Her stories have a great deal of violence. She was very much ahead of her time writing in the 50s and 60s. ... She had found her audience: it is the 20 something crowd. They are no longer repelled by the grotesque or violence: that is precisely what attracts them. That makes her extremely popular in pop culture. In the  NBC series Hannibal in the third episode a young F.B.I. agent is reading to an unconscious patient. She is reading a Flannery O'Conner story, A Good Man is Hard to Find ."

 
The Hill House at Andulusia 
Another indication of her increased popularity are the rash of biographies of O’Connor’s life Flannery O'Connor: A Biography by Melissa Simons, Flannery O'Conner: A Life by Jean W. Cash and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Conner by �Brad Gooch have all come out in the 21st century.

For more info:

http://www.flanneryoconnorhome.org/

http://www.andalusiafarm.org/

 

 



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