What follows is a repost. The pictures are from the ” Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”. Recently, it was announced that Central State Hospital would be closing.
PG remembers the first time the name Flannery O’Connor sank in. He was visiting some friends, in a little house across from the federal prison.
Rick(?) was the buddy of a character known as Harry Bowers. PG was never sure what Harry’s real name was. One night, Rick was talking about Southern Gothic writers, and he said that Flannery O’Connor was just plain weird ” Who else would have a bible salesman show up at a farm, take the girl up into a hayloft, unscrew her wooden leg and leave her there? Weird”
Flannery O’Connor was recently the subject of a biography written by Brad Gooch. The book is getting a bit of publicity. Apparently, the Milledgeville resident was a piece of work.
PG read some reviews of this biography, and found a collection of short stories at the library. The book included ” Good Country People”, the tale about the bible salesman. Apparently, this story was inspired by a real life incident. ( Miss O’Connor had lupus the last fifteen years of her life. She used crutches.) And yes, it is weird. Not like hollywood , but in the way of rural, post world war two Georgia.
Some of the reviews try to deal with her attitudes about Black people. On a certain level, she is a racist. She uses the n word freely, and her black characters are not inspiring people. The thing is, the white characters are hardly any better, and in some cases much worse.
The stories are well crafted, with vivid descriptions of people and places. The reader floats along with the flow of the story, until he realizes that Grandma has made a mistake on a road trip. The house she got her son to look for is in Tennessee, not Georgia. She makes him drive the family car into a ditch. Some drifting killers come by. Grandma asks one if he prays, while his partner is shooting her grandchildren. Weird.
In another story, a drifter happens upon a pair of women in the country. The daughter is thirty years old, is deaf, and has never spoken a word. The drifter teaches her to say bird and sugarpie. The mother gives him fifteen dollars for a honeymoon, if he will marry her. He takes the fifteen dollars and leaves her asleep in a roadside diner.
PG was looking for yard sales one Saturday afternoon. He came to a house off Lavista Road, between Briarcliff and Cheshire Bridge. The house had apparently not been painted in the last forty years. Thousands and thousands of paperback books were on the shelves. The lady taking the money said that the lady who lived there was the friend, and correspondent of, the “Milledgeville writer” Flannery O’Connor. This is apparently Betty Hester, who is mentioned in many of the biography reviews.
PG told the estate sale lady that she should be careful how she said that. There used to be a large mental hospital in Milledgeville, and the name is synonymous in Georgia with mental illness. The estate sale lady had never heard that.