When an author has died young, it’s pretty typical to hear readers bemoan the loss of all that work that never had the chance to be created.
But I don’t often hear readers of Flannery O’Connor talk about what she might have written if she had not died at age 39 way back in 1964. I suspect that’s because we all know that her adult experiences, her religious beliefs, and her fiction were profoundly impacted by her illness. If she had not battled lupus for years, just as her father did, she might have been a very different writer. If she had not written with the knowledge that her life would likely be a short one, just like her father’s, could she have plumbed such awesome and strange spiritual depths?
So it’s hard even to imagine who Mary Flannery O’Connor would be if she were alive today — her 88th birthday.
And I have no idea what she would have thought of the birthday party we held for her on Saturday at her childhood home — now a house museum — here in Savannah.
The Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home’s Homemade Parade and Garden Party included some music, some crafts, some absurd costumes, a peacock-calling contest, good food and community, and just enough surreal images to seem a little strange even in Savannah.
As Brad Gooch notes in his excellent biography, the weather was “unsettled” in Savannah on March 25, 1925. And it was unsettled on Saturday, with hard rains giving way suddenly — just before the parade began — to bright sun and blue skies.