Flannery O Connor (1925 1964) ranks among the foremost writers of
fiction in American literature. Her short stories, in particular,
are considered models of the form. Born in Savannah, O Connor spent
most of her life in Georgia and infused her work with southern
characters, themes, and landscapes. A devout Catholic, she
addressed the mystery of God s grace in everyday life, often amid
the grotesque, the shocking, and the violent. In this first
full-length biography of the writer, Jean W. Cash draws upon
extensive interviews with O Connor s friends, relatives, teachers,
and colleagues as well as on the writer s voluminous correspondence
to provide a sensitive, balanced portrait of a fascinating woman.
As Cash demonstrates, O Connor s sheltered childhood, extraordinary
intellect, spiritual certainty, and unique personality including a
wry sense of humor combined not only to make her something of an
outsider but also to foster her literary genius. As a child, her
favorite activities were reading, writing stories, and drawing.
Perhaps more unusual was her childhood feat of teaching a rooster
to walk backwards. Her passion for exotic fowl later found
expression in the peacock symbolism in her fiction. The family
moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, in 1938, and there O Connor
attended high school and college. She left the South in 1945 and
entered the graduate writing program at the University of Iowa,
where she completed several chapters of her first novel, Wise
Blood. She went on to live at the Yaddo writers colony in Saratoga
Springs, New York, and she might have spent her most creative years
in the North if illness had not interfered. However, lupus the same
disease that had killed her father forced her to return to
Milledgeville, where she lived and wrote for the remaining fourteen
years of her life under the protective care of her mother. The
latter chapters of Cash s biography address O Connor s adjustment
to her debilitating illness and to a more circumscribed existence.
As Cash explains, she learned to accommodate her mother s insular
outlook, and in many ways her fiction profited artistically during
this period. Her friendships and active correspondence added to the
variety and vitality of her life. She also traveled widely on the
lecture circuit and reviewed books for a local Catholic
publication. Even in her illness and relative isolation in
Milledgeville, O Connor continued to live a richly rewarding and
creative life. The Author: Jean W. Cash is professor of English at
James Madison University."
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