I’m surrounded by dog farts and peacocks. To be clear, they aren’t actual peacocks (I’m not a fan) but rather representational peacocks. To be crystal clear, the dogs farts are real, not representational and quite abundant. I’m reading Flannery O’Conner (yes, again, or rather, still) with a highlighter, in bed, under my blanket that mysteriously matches “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” (A Harvest Book edition). So mysterious. And my poodle is on the end of the bed farting because, and I think this is the correct answer, he hates me.
It’s midnight on a Saturday, or maybe it’s Sunday and this is my life now, and I wish it were a folly, a joke, a side-splitter, but it’s real life and as we know real life can, at times, be just as ridiculous as art.
Jerimiah sent me an article yesterday: “Apropos your paper,” he said. It was from the New Yorker, it was titled: “How Racist was Flannery O’Conner?” Great, I sighed toward him, sitting across the room from me. Thanks for this. He smiled. Seemed appropriate. He’s not wrong. I’ve been assigned Mary Flannery O’Conner for my presentation next month in my Southern Fiction class, and I’ve decided to use “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” as my in, as I also have to do a scholarship review of her work, and a semester-long paper on her as well. I’d been debating, as late as this morning, whether I’d hit the road for Andalusia this week.
Andalusia is O’Conner’s estate in Milledgville, Georgia, a two-hour drive from my house. I’ve decided, as I approach my 39th birthday and await the test results for this autoimmune disease I’m battling—likely Lupus (O’Conner died at 39 from Lupus), that I should make the pilgrimage. But I’ve been dragging my feet, for reasons above, and now this.
I’ve always been a fan of O’Conner. Always stood up for her, always sidestepped any unseemly information, but this time I can’t. What I can’t decide, and what the articles ask us to consider, is whether O’Conner was just a product of her raising. Or if something more sinister went on there, between her writing about racism, and plucking along among the peacocks.
I read the article. I looked at the stack of scholarly reviews I have sitting on my desk. I tapped my fingers on my chin. I cursed my husband. Misdirected anger.
I’ll go to Andalusia because I want to see for myself. Because I’m just curious enough to want to turn the knob on the old farmhouse door, just naive enough to believe an old cotton plantation in central Georgia will fill me in on the past.
Besides, it appears I have a deadline now. And it’s coming up fast.