Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
For his new biography, Gooch (City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara) interviewed not only O'Connor's friends and literary allies Elizabeth Hardwick, Sally Fitzgerald (Robert Fitzgerald's wife), and Robert Giroux but also lifelong friends Betty Boyd; Erik Langkjaer, O'Connor's lone love interest; her uncle Dr. Bernard Cline, who influenced her obsession with birds; and Iowa Writers' Workshop director Paul Engle, who persuaded O'Connor to take up writing fiction and introduced her to John Crowe Ransom, Andrew Lytle, and Robert Penn Warren. Gooch's biography is a marvel of concision but skimps on nothing. Not a detailed analysis of O'Connor's fiction, it offers the brief, thematic shape of each novel and some short stories. Gooch writes of O'Connor's horrific lupus affliction, her grotesque and vaguely cartoonlike sense of humor, her complex religious sensibility, and her ability to learn something from every writer she read, from theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (the source of her title "Everything That Rises Must Converge") to Carson McCullers, whose Clock Without Hands she judged "the worst book I have ever read." If O'Connor's writing glows with edged comic genius, biographer Gooch is himself no slouch. If a library is to have only one book on Flannery O'Connor, this should be it. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/08.]-Charles C. Nash, formerly with Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Although the dust jacket of this book presents it as "the first major biography of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century," that distinction in fact belongs to Jean Cash's Flannery O'Connor: A Life (2002). Nevertheless, Gooch (William Patterson Univ.; City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara, CH, Dec'93, 31-1958) develops a fascinating narrative of O'Connor (1925-64), who was intensely serious about her Catholicism and her writing but who could speak wryly of nuns and novelists. Gooch's reference to his subject as "Flannery" from chapter 4 onward is misleading (not to mention distracting), because his research is not casual, as 60 pages of acknowledgments and notes attest. He describes O'Connor's relationships with Erik Langkjaer, Betty Hester, and others in unprecedented detail. He remarks that O'Connor "loved to play with patterns in her stories," and he does likewise in relating the short life of the writer from Milledgeville, Georgia. Gooch has as much fun with the town's nickname, "A Bird Sanctuary," as O'Connor did. The vibrant presence of chickens, peacocks, ducks, the Holy Spirit, and other winged creatures throughout O'Connor's life and fiction is Gooch's leitmotif in this moving, readable study. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. J. W. Hall University of Mississippi
Author notes provided by Syndetics
Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet , as well as other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at ColumbiaUniversityand is Professor of English atWilliamPatersonUniversityinNew Jersey.