In my last post, I wrote about a gracious plenty of things the South has to offer, but in my list I forgot to mention one very important thing that the South has in abundance: truly great literature.
Being an avid reader and writer, I started my southern literature kick several years ago, and truthfully, this is the only genre that draws my attention and makes me want to sit on the front porch and read until the sun sets. There is great comfort in reading about the South, and even better if it is from the perspective of a Southerner!
That being said, I have also found myself a little obsessed with visiting the homes of Southern authors. I find great pleasure in walking through their homes, taking in the view from their writing rooms, and imagining all the wonderful characters and places that have been immortalized on paper in those very spots.
My first Southern author home tour happened just a hop, skip, and a jump way in Savannah, Georgia at the childhood home of Miss Flannery O’Connor. As I walked up the steps, I tried to imagine this small child running across the hardwood floors and beginning her love affair with words. One of the things that stick out for me is that in the books she would read as a child, she would write a “review”, simply stating (paraphrased), “It was good, but could have been better.” I fell in love with the simplicity of this act, and she is the reason I now write book reviews for all the books I read!
When I visit these homes, I like to purchase a book from the gift store that is usually on site. I know all the books come from the same place, but to me the book is more special if I buy it at the home where the author lived rather than getting it on Amazon. It’s a souvenir, a way to remember my visit.
On my first visit to the Flannery O’Connor home, I did not have any cash with me and they did not take credit cards. For the life of me, I could not find an ATM machine in the vicinity, and by the time I did, the home’s visiting hours were over. Bummer! Silly as it is, I went back the next Sunday (the opening hours were Sundays only at that time), and had to tell the guy, “No, I did the tour last week, but came back to buy a book.” He gave me a bright-eyed look, chuckled, and tucked the receipt for The Complete Stories in the front cover.
While that first visit happened almost five years ago, it is only in the last month that I’ve settled into Flannery O’Connor’s book of short stories. About halfway through, I’m finding I look forward to the next story, and I’m completely fascinated by her characters. I’ll have to write a review of them once I’m done!
Incidentally, it was just a week ago today that I was in Milledgeville, Georgia where Flannery O’Connor’s 455-acre dairy farm, Andalusia, is located. It is at Andalusia that she wrote her two novels and two collections of short stories. Unfortunately, my travels began a bit late and I did not make it to Andalusia until it was almost closing time. I was able to get out and walk around the grounds, but there just wasn’t the time for a tour of her home. Next time!
There were white irises popping up in spots all around the grounds. Seeing the irises made me stop and think about how much she was able to create in her short life. She died at the age of 39, and today marks what would have been her 88th birthday. And, so, it is with both joy and sadness that we say “Happy Birthday” to one of America’s greatest fiction writers, Miss Flannery O’Connor.