Flannery O’Connor famously said: “There won’t be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.”
Well, a couple of years ago Brad Gooch proved that wrong with his excellent biography Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor.
And I have to wonder if O’Connor herself believed her self-deprecating comment. While hardly one to see fame or publicity, she seemed well aware of the fact that her sometimes-strange, sometimes-violent, and always-provocative fiction would gain readers and respect after her death. She died a minor Southern novelty in the literary world; today she is viewed as one of the most important writers of the 20th century.
But how would O’Connor feel about being a character in another author’s novel?
Well that’s a tricky one. O’Connor herself drew upon her life experiences and the individual people around her in the creation of her own characters, but I don’t know how she would view A Good Hard Look, the new novel by Ann Napolitano. Napolitano will be reading from, speaking about, and signing copies of the novel on Thursday, July 14th at 7 p.m. in the parlor of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home here in Savannah.
Here’s more from the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home press release:
Set in Milledgeville, Ga. in the 1960s, A Good Hard Look features Flannery O’Connor as the novel’s principal character. Reviews of the book call it a “dark, beautifully written story” that is both powerful and inspirational. The characters in the novel experience profound disappointment and heartbreak, and their intertwined lives force readers to face up to O’Connor’s observation that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
O Magazine recently raved: “In A Good Hard Look, Ann Napolitano creates a fictional version of the life of the acclaimed Southern writer that is as vibrantly colorful as the peacocks raised on the O’Connor family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. Napolitano makes no attempt to mimic O’Connor’s singular style, but she does succeed in creating a wholly believable world shaped by duty, small pleasures and fateful choices.”
Napolitano is also the author of the novel Within Arm’s Reach. She received an M.F.A. from New York University and currently teaches fiction writing at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in New York City.
On her blog, Napolitano talks in more detail about the “well-lived life”, which is one of the themes of the novel. O’Connor, who lived a difficult 13 years after being diagnosed with lupus, comes across on the blog as an exemplar of moral courage:
Flannery endured steroid shots, surgeries, blood transfusions, a strict diet and a litany of medications. Her hair fell out temporarily, her face swelled, and she had to use metal crutches to walk. She kept her sense of humor though, and almost never complained about her situation. Her letters from this period are bright, sarcastic, and concerned about the world beyond the borders of her family farm, Andalusia. She developed a quiet routine that allowed her to devote her limited strength to her work. In the morning she sat at her desk and wrote stories. In the afternoons she rocked on her front porch and composed letters to faraway friends. She wrote to the poet Robert Lowell, “I have enough energy to write with and as that is all I have any business doing anyhow, I can with one eye squinted take it all as a blessing.”
Napolitano’s July 14th appearance in Savannah is free and open to the public, thanks to special funding from the Georgia Center for the Book.