Flannery

A Life of Flannery O'Connor
By Brad Gooch (Trade Paperback, 2010)
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.
  • Little, Brown and Company
    • Format: Trade Paperback

    • Price: $16.99 US/$19.99 CAN

    • ISBN-13: 9780316018999

    • On Sale Date: 03/15/2010

    • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

    Formats Available: Hardcover Book, Trade Paperback, Electronic Book

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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.
  • PRAISE FOR FLANNERY:

    "A good biographer is hard to find. Brad Gooch is not merely good--he is extraordinary. Blessed with the eye and ear of a novelist, he has composed the life that admirers of the fierce and hilarious Georgia genius have long been hoping for."  (President Emeritus, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation).

  • "Flannery O'Connor, one of the best American writers of short fiction, has found her ideal biographer in Brad Gooch. With elegance and fairness, Gooch deals with the sensitive areas of race and religion in O'Connor's life. He also takes us back to those heady days after the war when O'Connor studied creative writing at Iowa. There is much that is new in this book, but, more important, everything is presented in a strong, clear light." 

  • "This splendid biography gives us no saint or martyr but the story of a gifted and complicated woman, bent on making the best of  the difficult hand fate has dealt her, whether it is with grit and humor or with an abiding desire to make palpable to readers the terrible mystery of God's grace."  (author of Seeing Mary Plain: A Life of Mary McCarthy).

  • "Gooch comfortably traces [Flannery O'Connor's] fiction to its real-life roots in a meticulous yet seemingly effortless writing style, resulting in the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus for general readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fiction." (Booklist (starred review)).

  • Esteemed biographer Gooch (author of City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara, 1993) pulls, with great fondness and understanding, the life and personality of Flannery O'Connor, the much celebrated Georgia novelist and short story writer, out from under the false impression, which has lasted for decades, that O'Connor was "an eccentric recluse."  Her lifetime was relatively brief; she was diagnosed with lupus in her twenties and died of that disease in 1964 at age 39.  But she was fierce in her determination to write, appreciating her own worth as a fiction writer.  Although confined for so many years before her death at the family farm outside Milledgeville with her widowed mother, she was an active and highly regarded member of the American literary scene of her day, keeping in close touch with important editors and luminaries in prose and poetry who were "crucial to her literary career."  Her many short stories and two novels were, despite their frequent depictions of violence, grounded in O'Connor's deep Catholic consciousness.  Gooch comfortably traces her fiction to its real-life roots in a meticulous yet seemingly effortless writing style, resulting in the definitive biography as well as providing the impetus for general readers to return to O'Connor's timeless fashion.  (Booklist (starred review)).

  • "Rapt, authoritative...What makes Flannery so valuable is the degree of intimacy with which it captures O'Connor's sensibility." (New York Times).

  • "Gooch's biography is a marvel of concision but skimps on nothing.... If O'Connor's writing glows with edged comic genius, biographer Gooch is himself no slouch. If a library is to have only one book on Flannery O'Connor, this should be it. Highly recommended." (Library Journal).

  • "Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) was a character worthy of her best short stories, a study in deep contradictions and gentle nuance. In the first major biography of the short story master, Brad Gooch makes up for torrid romances and bad behavior--of which there were none in O'Connor's life--with detail and insight, undoing some popular myths along the way." (Atlanta Magazine).

  • "Gooch is brilliant on [O'Connor's] fiction, passionate and smart, able to contextualize both the individual pieces and the scope of the career." (Los Angeles Times).

  • "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." (The Washington Times).

  • "Enlivening the book is Gooch's keen eye for the many real-life inspirations...that this literary master transformed into art." (O, The Oprah Magazine).

  • "Written in crisp, sharp narrative that O'Connor herself would have been proud of, Gooch's account of her life is a wonderful journey through not enough years." (Metro Spirit).

  • "Brad Gooch's exquisite portrait of Flannery O'Connor is engaging and essential reading." (BookLoons).

  • "O'Connor did not travel widely, socialize (as such) or date, and she spent most of her life in the company of her mother and her beloved menagerie of birds, yet her fierce insight, imagination, faith and craft create a universe that fairly burns through geographical or cultural boundaries." (BookPage).

  • "Brad Gooch illuminates the short, tragic life of Flannery O'Connor, the Southern-gothic genius whose fiction, occasional prose, and correspondence are as dazzling as the exotic peacocks that roamed her Georgia homestead." (Elle).

  • "Hotly anticipated...the definitive biography." (W Magazine).

  • "[O'Connor] has become, as Brad Gooch points out in Flannery, "a one-woman academic industry," an industry wherein Gooch labors and thrives by producing that big, calm, gentlemanly biography....Gooch is a professional, and a gracious and determined one." (New York Times Book Review).

  • "Brad Gooch's thorough new offering, Flannery...sets a new standard....Flannery will give readers a new respect for O'Connor's accomplishments, a new admiration for the almost biblical power of her vision, her voice." (Clevland Plain Dealer).

  • "Here, in the hands of Brad Gooch...comes a seminal study of O'Connor's life: a lengthy, in-depth look at her youth and education, family life, growth as a writer, and artistic maturity. The timing seems apt. This year marks 45 years since O'Connor's death in the summer of 1964....Flannery delivers much of what we want to know about the life of this remarkable woman, in a compact, readable package." (Buffalo News).

  • "This welcome biography of Flannery O'Connor is crisply written, fully researched and relatively brief...Brad Gooch is a sympathetic critic of both O'Connor's life and writings...Perhaps the most original contribution Gooch makes to our understanding of O'Connor is his through filling-in of her early life in Savannah and in Milledgeville, Ga.... Gooch usefully describes the genesis of individual stories and the presence in them, transformed, of people O'Connor knew...Brad Gooch's biography will help bring [O'Connor's] talent into clearer sight." (Chicago Tribune).

  • "[Brad Gooch] has done an earnest, respectful but mercifully not hagiographic job.... Lucidly written and neither excessively long nor riddled with extraneous detail." (The Washington Post).

  • "Gooch provides a glimpse into what it must have been like for O'Connor to face her far-too-short time on Earth looking 'down the barrel of the Misfit's shotgun.'" (Austin American-Statesman).

  • "Gooch does a brilliant job of resurrecting on the page this major American writer." (Associated Press).

  • "Excellent...Mr. Gooch's is patient and tactful with the publicity-shy and dauntingly complex O'Connor. His book is a welcome introduction to the quiet, narrow life of a fiercely funny and unnervingly powerful writer." (The New York Observer).

  • "Excellent... likely to be the definitive life of O'Connor for this generation of readers.... Gooch approaches this task with admirable delicacy....Treading lightly over the minefield of either reading biography into a story or constructing biography out of fiction, Gooch instead shows us how O'Connor seized upon experience as raw material in constructing narratives whose shape was finally dictated by the demands of art....Gooch has done a splendid job of catching up the observations, memories, and speculations of O'Connor's contemporaries." (American Scholar).

  • "Gooch has crafted an engaging, richly detailed account of O'Connor's life, in which the writer emerges as a vivid, quirky presence.... The peacock has long served as O'Connor's 'signature bird,' and if her fiction matches the glorious displays of the tail feathers, Flannery finds uncommon grace in the plumage that goes overlooked." (Creative Loafing).

  • "[O'Connor] emerges once again, as quirky, passionate, and tart-tongued as ever." (Entertainment Weekly (Grade A)).

  • "As Brad Gooch's fine new biography of O'Connor, Flannery, details, her relations with the heavenly powers were never smooth or simple." (The American Spectator).

  • "As Brad Gooch points out in Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor the first full-length biography of O'Connor, the Library of America's 1988 volume of her collected works 'outsold [William] Faulkner's, published three years earlier'....Flannery is attractively written, thorough but not obtrusively detailed and-most important-wholly to the point.... It is the work of a biographer whose goal is not to advocate or justify but simply to tell the story of O'Connor's too-short life and (insofar as possible) show how it was mirrored in her fiction." (Commentary).

  • "Gooch's well-researched, warm biography does many things, and not the least is dispelling those images of her as the 'reclusive Emily Dickinson of Milledgeville'.... Paints a vivid picture...Gooch writes movingly of O'Connor's stoic acceptance of her illness and fight to continue to write." (St. Petersburg Times).

  • "Brad Gooch is not the first biographer to chronicle the years O'Connor lived (1925-1964), but he is arguably the best because he rarely falls into the pit of reductionism. He understood early in his research that O'Connor represented far more than an eccentric recluse." (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

  • "One of the strengths of Brad Gooch's biography is its elegant pooh-poohing of her claim that 'experience is the greatest deterrent to fiction.'" (The Economist).

  • "A meticulous, honorable job." (Wilmington Star News).

  • "Has any other 20th century American author...had such an enormous influence on American literature?... The wonder is that it took half a century for her to get a definitive biography, Brad Gooch's Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.... Tommy Lee Jones, who wrote his college thesis on O'Connor, seemed to be directing under her spell in his film The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen have both recorded albums that sound like background music to her world' Springsteen admitted he wrote and recorded his album Nebraska while reading O'Connor. The chilling ending of A Good Man Is Hard to Find is echoed in the title song from that album....the details of the chapter on her time [at the Iowa Writers Workshop] is one of the best in Flannery and one of the best accounts of a writer's development in recent literary biography...Flannery sweeps away myriad myths that have built up around O'Connor's life." (Salon.com).

  • "Brad Gooch's thorough and instructive biography attempts to dispel the enigma surrounding this relentlessly talented woman." (The Miami Herald).

  • "The story Gooch tells is amply shaded and evocatively detailed...It is a poignant, inspiring story of one brave, dedicated, brilliant writer." (The Boston Globe).

  • "It's incredible that this is the first biography of the great Southern writer Flannery O'Connor.... As Brad Gooch shows, her life was as dark and rich and dense with meaning as her fiction is." (Time).

  • "While Gooch, who has written an acclaimed biography of poet Frank O'Hara, does point to the details of her life that likely gave rise to her fiction, he does not overstate these parallels.... And though Gooch does signal changes in her writing, the juvenile satire giving way to something deeper, more mysterious and always death-haunted, he does not hold forth. 'Explanations are repugnant to me,' O'Connor once wrote to longtime correspondent Betty Hester, and her biographer, it would seem, agrees." (Newsday.com).

  • "Gooch spins an engaging narrative that is sure to draw in all its readers...the power of Gooch's work is not in the novelty of his material, but rather in his poignant storytelling and in his clear depiction of her works emerging naturally out of her life, particularly her Christian faith." (The Englewood Review of Books).

  • "Mr. Gooch has crafted the first serious biography of the distinguished Georgia writer, and in doing so he clears away some misconceptions.... Gooch accomplishes much good in this biography, stepping politely out of the picture to give his subject the center stage, offering a detailed account of her activities and beliefs, having performed an astonishing amount of research to reach the point of telling. Admirers of O'Connor will welcome Mr. Gooch's thorough and informative biography of one of the most fascinating and rewarding writers in 20th-century American literature." (Washington Times).

  • "A nuanced portrait of an unvarnished original...Gooch artfully meshes all the moving parts." (Newark Star Ledger).

  • "Impressive. . . Gooch's account is meticulous." (The New Yorker).

  • "This gentlemanly biography reminds us that every now and then we need to renew our acquaintance with this thrilling writer...Gooch makes us feel the vitality of her literary creations all over again." (Times-Picayune (New Orleans)).

  • "The South runs through Brad Gooch's new biography of Flannery O'Connor as it runs through her fierce and funny stories....A must-read for any fan." (Guns and Garden).

  • "Brad Gooch's excellent biography explores the mystery of how this solitary, pampered Catholic girl from Georgia...became an unequivocal moral thinker, and acerbic wit and one of America's most astonishing writers.... Gooch's carefully researched biography discloses and orchestrates...in graceful prose.... A compelling narrative and a wonderful resource, for despite his years of seeking and shaping, Gooch is enough of an artist to understand that no amount of explanation can divest lightning of its surprise and magnificence." (The Roanoke Times).

  • "This is one of those rare biographies that makes the writer almost as fascinating as what she wrote." (The Houston Chronicle).

  • "So compelling is Flannery O'Connor that one almost forgets there's another writer at work in Brad Gooch's fascinating biography of the Southern short-story master. But this fact is a testament to just how well written and thoroughly researched Flannery is. Gooch draws a complex portrait of O'Connor...But don't get the wrong impression--although there is much about writing and academia, there is serious color in this book." (Time Out New York).

  • "In his engaging, sympathetic, and yet intellectually scrupulous biography of O'Connor, Brad Gooch provides the ideal biographical commentary." (New York Review of Books).

  • (Library Journal).

Formats

Product Details

Flannery
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Price: $16.99 US/$19.99 CAN
  • Pages: 464
  • Physical Dimensions: 5-1/2" x 8-1/4"
  • Audio Run Time: 0
  • ISBN-13: 9780316018999
  • On Sale Date: 03/15/2010
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Flannery