Thursday, November 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Flannery O'Connor on the Book Tour

Our upcoming episode of Georgia Traveler that premieres this weekend is all about Georgia authors. It's called the "Book Tour of Georgia" and highlights only a few of Georgia's many, many talented authors. Included in our program are Joel Chandler Harris, Margaret Mitchell, Jessica Green and Ted Hafer (authors of The Grit Cookbook), and Flannery O'Connor.

Georgia Traveler co-host Valarie Edwards takes you on a journey to Milledgeville, where Mary Flannery O'Connor spent most of her adult life. Here's a picture of Valarie on the front porch of Andalusia, the O'Connor family farm. Andalusia has been preserved as a museum by the Flannery O'Connor Andalusia Foundation.

Born in 1925 in Savannah, Flannery was the only child of Regine Cline and Edwin Francis O'Connor. The family lived in a three story home on Lafayette Square, just steps away from Savannah's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Her childhood home is also a museum managed by the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home Foundation.

After a brief residence in Atlanta beginning in 1938, the O’Connor family moved in 1940 to Milledgeville to live in the Cline family home on Greene Street. Flannery's father, Edward, died of lupus early in 1941, and Mrs. O’Connor and Flannery continued to live in the Milledgeville family home along with Flannery’s aunts. It was in that home on Greene Street that Flannery continued to live while she attended Peabody High School and Georgia State College for Women, which is now Georgia College & State University. The University is home to the Flannery O'Connor collection. Here's a picture of our photographer Mitch Zastrow in the Flannery O'Connor Room, shooting footage of one of Flannery's typewriters.

Flannery O’Connor left Milledgeville in 1945 to attend the State University of Iowa. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree after two years but remained in Iowa for another year before going to the Yaddo Foundation's artist colony near Saratoga Springs, New York. Afterwards she lived in New York City where she was introduced to Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, with whom she lived for over a year in Ridgefield, Connecticut. During this time she was writing her first novel Wise Blood. In late 1950 Flannery O’Connor began to exhibit symptoms of lupus, the disease that had killed her father. Her health forced Flannery to return to Milledgeville in 1951, where she and her mother moved to the family farm, Andalusia, where Flannery lived for thirteen years, until her death in 1964.

Georgia Traveler visited GCSU and spoke with Professor Bruce Gentry, the Editor of the Flannery O'Connor Review. We then visited Andalusia and spoke with Craig Amason, Executive Director of the Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation. Here's a picture of Valarie and Craig as they walk some of the grounds at Andalusia. The farm's original 21 acres have been recently augmented to include nearly 500 adjoining acres, which have been set aside as a nature preserve. There are nature trails with signage about some of the types of trees on the property as well. This is definitely an excellent outdoor activity for literary buffs!

Back in the city limits of Milledgeville, you can hop a hospitality trolley that leaves from the headquarters of our good friends at the Milledgeville Convention and Visitors Bureau on West Hancock Street and see other Flannery highlights, like the Sacred Heart Catholic Church where O’Connor and her mother attended Mass daily.

You can catch our segment on Flannery O'Connor in Georgia Traveler 305, the Book Tour of Georgia this Friday, November 20 at 9 PM, Saturday, November 21 at 7 PM and Wednesday, November 25 at 7:30 PM.

We hope you enjoy the segment as much as we enjoyed our visit to Milledgeville. Until my next Behind the Scenes post, this is Executive Producer Ashlie Wilson wishing you pleasant journeys... from the beautiful front porch of the Andalusia farm!

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