The ever-mesmerizing Flannery O’Connor. (photo by Getty Images)
As close to a million or more people pour into Savannah, Georgia, for the March 17 St. Patrick’s Day Parade and associated festivities a number of them will also take time to visit the childhood home of America’s iconic author, Flannery O’Connor, at 207 E. Charlton Street near Lafayette Square.
Just eight days after St. Patrick’s Day, celebrations of a different order will take place when O’Connor fans mark what would have been the author’s 86th birthday on March 25. Those who immediately conjure images of southern “library geeks” with their noses pressed inside an open book when considering fans of her work might be surprised to note the Georgia College and State University website list the following among some of the author’s biggest fans: “Bruce Springsteen, Bono, The Coen Brothers, Conan O’Brien and Lucinda Williams are contemporary examples of people affected by her long legacy.”
Acknowledgement of that legacy over the next few months will take on many forms, including a short fiction competition, a conference, and the release of a new novel based on O’Connor’s life in Milledgeville, Georgia.
In the Mode of Flannery O’Connor
Hosted by the University of Georgia Press, the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction was established almost three decades ago. It is presented annually for a collection of short fiction in the mode of O’Connor. Entries for this year’s competition will be accepted throughout the month of April until May 31.
To date, some fifty short story collections have been published through the competition, which has also been credited with generating renewed interest in the genre. Past winners have included Mary Hood for How Far She Went, Peter LaSalle for Tell Borges If You See Him, and Nancy Zafris for The People I Know. Zafris has also been appointed the new series editor for the competition. For more details and information on submitting manuscripts click this link: Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
The Conference at the Farm
The Flannery O’Connor Conference will be held from April 13-April 16 at the author’s alma mater, the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, and also at Andalusia, the farm where she lived. The conference’s theme is “Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor” and will feature talents from different creative disciplines, such as musicians, artists, writers, scholars, and artists, all of whom at one time or another have been inspired by the author’s work.
Among the more famous headliners slated to attend the conference is author and editor E.L. Doctorow, who will participate in an interview as well as present a reading In addition, musician Dave Perkins and Friends will perform a tribute concert on April 16.
A Good Hard Look
Usually when a publisher speaks of “resurrecting” an author who has passed away, they are referring to the re-publication of the author’s catalogue or the publication of a newly discovered book by them. In this case, O’Connor will undergo a literary resurrection with the July publication of A Good Hark Look (Penguin Press). The surprise here for those not already aware of the title is that it is not a scholarly study or biography but a novel by Ann Napolitano, author of Within Arm’s Reach.
Writing in her blog, Napolitano revealed that “The idea of a ‘well-lived life’ is a central theme of my novel, A Good Hard Look.” She further added: “It’s difficult for me to write about Flannery O’Connor [in the blog] because she’s lived in my head for the last seven years as a character in my novel… I wrote endless drafts of my novel and in particular, hundreds of drafts of her scenes, because I wanted the book to be worthy of her.”
Such concern makes a lot of sense when considering the high esteem in which O’Connor is held almost universally. Even so, if the five- and four-star ratings awarded Napolitano’s book by advance-copy readers on the Goodreads website are any indication, she may very well have accomplished her goal.
Please click to read: Events, Books Highlight Flannery O’Connor’s Legacy (part 2) Her Life and Times