[(essay date 2006) In the following essay, Brown relates her experience of visiting O’Connor at Andalusia Farm, discussing how the author’s life there pervades her short fiction.]
This essay is a sequel to “Flannery O’Connor: A Literary Memoir,” which I wrote in 1984.1 In that essay I related some of the details of my friendship with Flannery O’Connor, which began through correspondence in 1952. I first met her the following year at the home of Brainard and Frances Cheney in Tennessee; they had made her acquaintance and invited both of us to a house party. O’Connor visited the hospitable Cheneys several times, and the correspondence between them continued for the rest of her life. Ralph C. Stephens of the University of Maryland collected, edited, and published it.2
I first visited the O’Connors in April 1955 in the company of a friend at the University of Georgia in Athens, Fred Bornhauser. Fred, a high school friend of mine and later a Rhodes Scholar, seemed to have read most of the stories that would soon be included in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. This was not easily done because three of the ten stories were first published in Harper’s Bazaar, not usual reading matter for an intellectual youth. It is to the credit of Alice Morris, in those days the literary editor of the magazine, that she was able to include stories of the caliber of “Good Country People” among the illustrations of haute couture. Flannery’s response was characteristic: “A lady in Macon told me she read me under the dryer. I was gratified.” Alice Morris could not resist putting this wry comment in a quite perceptive contributor’s note that she wrote to accompany an unusual photograph of Flannery O’Connor. The fact is that O’Connor’s stories sometimes turned up in unexpected places. She and her agent usually tried to place them in journals with a fairly large circulation. In a letter of April 11, 1954, to the Cheneys she reports that Monroe Spears is going to print “The Displaced Person”, and she mentions that “the Atlantic kept it 4 months and decided it wasn’t their dish” (Stephens 15). I find it astonishing that the Atlantic Monthly, once a highly esteemed American literary journal, should have rejected a masterpiece like “The Displaced Person”, surely one of the most accessible of the stories. In any event, it was quickly accepted by the Sewanee Review and, once published there in October 1954, was soon revised and expanded into the version that we have in A Good Man Is Hard to Find.
It was an easy drive from Athens to Milledgeville on a fine Sunday afternoon in April. Andalusia lies outside the town on Highway 441 to Eatonton, which thus connects the homes of two famous Georgia authors, O’Connor and Joel Chandler Harris. A quick glance at The Habit of Being reveals that Flannery almost never mentioned Harris in her letters, but occasionally in conversation a visitor would bring up...