Once More With Feeling

This volume has provoked in this correspondent a number of Yogi Berra moments—it’s been déjà vu all over again, and for more than one reason.  Why, then, am I seized with such a pleasant vertigo?  Let me count the ways!  First off, I have lived with this material before some of it even happened, for over 50 years, and I have known quite a few of the people who appear in these pages.  Add to that the matter of biographical multiplication or proliferation or splintering, for in these pages in one way and another are Sally Fitzgerald, in whose household O’Connor once lived, and who later researched O’Connor’s life, wrote about her, and edited her essays and letters, and whose death in 2000 forestalled a biography that would have had unique insight; William Sessions, a scholar who as a young man knew O’Connor and who is now finishing his own biography of her; and Jean Cash, whose serviceable biography of O’Connor was the first to appear.  So add Mr. Gooch himself and we have four biographers, three of whom consulted with me about the subject of this biography, and two of whom were notable, or even major, players within the overarching story of Flannery O’Connor herself.

Gooch’s is an exceptional rendering of that story on account of its agile and empathetic projection into scenes that are long gone: Savannah in the 30’s, Milledgeville and the Georgia...

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