Gooch, Brad. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor.
I really enjoyed this biography; it is one of the best I've read in the last several years. The details of Flannery's childhood, school years, relationship with her father, friendships, attempts to leave Milledgeville, the illness that brought her home, the often touchy relationship with her mother, and her friendships--all fascinated me.
One of the many interesting things in this biography is the revelation of A's name. Sally Fitzgerald who edited The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, chose not to reveal A's name. I thought that was a curious omission. I assumed that Fitzgerald consulted with A and that she chose not to reveal herself so publicly, but I was still mightily curious. At any rate, the biography gives Betty Hester a name and fills in more about her life. Maryat Lee, another friend and correspondent, was also filled out in more detail. What a wide variety of friendships Flannery managed, in spite of her illness and her quiet life in Milledgeville.
Flannery's friendship with Erik Langkjaer is another interesting peek behind the letters in The Habit of Being. The letters are like conversations, but don't include much about other aspects of her correspondents.
Both Maryat and Eric make appearances in Flannery's writing, disguised perhaps, but recognizable. I really need to do some re-reading of Flannery's fiction.
I found much new information and an entirely readable book in Brad Gooch's Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor. The research is thorough; Gooch interviewed an impressive number of people who knew O'Connor and used public records, Yaddo records, her correspondence, and her fiction as well.
Excerpt from the conclusion:
"Flannery had spent her life making literary chickens walk backward. But she had also spent much of her adult writing life looking down the barrel of the Misfit's shotgun. Just as her friends had to discern the contours of true suffering between the lines of her funny vignettes of invalidism, so her stories included a coded spiritual autobiography."
Another review: Dabroots
and: Betty & Boo's Mommy
Nonfiction. Biography. 2009. 385 pages.