There’s not much to tell about the life of Flannery O’Connor that hasn’t already been told: the mystical Catholicism, the hereditary lupus, the pet peacocks, the loved and mocked mother Regina, the exile to the family home in Milledgeville, Georgia for half her life, and her death at thirty-nine. As O’Connor said in her characteristically mocking, faux-hick voice: ‘Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.’ In his acknowledgements, Brad Gooch says that he first wanted to write her biography in the late 1970s, when he was a graduate student at Columbia, and contacted Sally Fitzgerald, O’Connor’s friend and housemate for many years before O’Connor became ill, who was working on a memoir. Fitzgerald told him to back off, although she also promised, in what sounds like a condescending dismissal to me but he calls ‘politely’ and ‘kindly’ letting him down, to keep him in mind if she ever had need of an assistant.
That call never came, although Fitzgerald might have done well to make it; she died in 2000 with her memoir still unfinished. Gooch, by then a novelist and professor of English who had written a well-received biography of Frank O’Hara, set off for Georgia to start his own