Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor

In This Review

Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor
By Brad Gooch
Little, Brown, 2009
464 pp. $30.00
Purchase

Anyone who seeks to understand U.S. politics must come to grips with the South; anyone who wants to know the South must read Flannery O'Connor. Gooch's biography breaks new ground, providing the most complete look at this mysterious and devastating writer available. It portrays O'Connor as an eccentric literary figure, well placed on the southern side of a flourishing postwar literary culture. Although the distinctive form of Catholicism that shaped O'Connor is well documented and influenced a host of other major American writers and thinkers as well, Gooch is curiously unwilling to bring this body of thought to bear on her life, her choices, or her work, instead focusing on the parts of her life that she herself considered the least important -- her travels, her involvement in the literary life of the day. Similarly, while treading gingerly through O'Connor's sometimes pungent and swampy racial attitudes, Gooch fails to give readers O'Connor as a southerner. They will be grateful for what they have but greedy for more; the definitive study of this great literary light has yet to be written.