A favorite writer on another favorite writer? Almost too much to ask for, but that's how the day started: with Joy Williams' review of Brad Gooch's Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Actually, it's less of a review per se than it is Joy's attempt to set down the inexplicable, illogical mystery of O'Connor's character. But it's a beautiful thing. And I wasn't exactly surprised when my brother sent me the link to the piece just as I was starting to read the second paragraph.
She entertained visitors. She liked fried shrimp and peppermint chiffon pie. She got away with what her friend Maryat Lee called “murder” in likening many of her smug fictional matriarchs to her mother, Regina, her “cross,” and killing them off in viciously creative ways. (“She don’t read any of it,” Flannery assured Maryat.) As biographers do, Gooch seeks the complete circle of a life, its stern fulfillment. He is puzzlingly enchanted with a bit of film shot when Flannery was 5, displaying a chicken she had “taught” to walk backward. He ends the book by referring again to this odd bird, though now the addled chick of childhood has become O’Connor’s “literary chickens walking backward” — against the grain, comic, tragic, queer, unnatural.
Flannery. When asked why she wrote, she replied, “Because I’m good at it.”
Click here to read the complete piece.
And here to read a short profile of Joy accompanied by unfortunate illustration.