Eatonton: Flannery O’Connor and the Georgia Writers Museum

Flannery O’Connor

Despite my degree in economics (even at twenty you have to start think about making a living), a course in southern literature was one of the most memorable of all my college courses. In that long ago semester of 1970, we read and dissected William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Shirley Ann Grau, Sidney Lanier, and Katherine Ann Porter and lost ourselves in moss-draped oaks and along limitless marshes and seashores. Perhaps the reason the topic resonated was my college was situated in the heart of the deep south (New Orleans, with its own special brand of “southern”), or that my professors lectured with authentic southern accents, or that the stories touched readers souls.

I recall laboring through Faulkner’s prose with my fellow students and with a Faulkner Reader by my side—a rewarding exercise that brought the dialogue to life and illuminated the scene, while explaining the masterfully veiled meanings.

“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence.”

So starts Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”

Katherine Anne Porter made us look in the mirror and confront our mortality in “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”, as she did the young girls in the opening of “Old Mortality.”

“Maria and Miranda, aged twelve and eight years, knew they were young, though they felt they had lived a long time. They had lived not only their own years; but their memories, it seemed to them, began years before they were born, in the lives of the grownups around them, who had a way of insisting that they too had been young once. It was hard to believe.”

But there was something about Flannery, though she might prefer to be called Miss O’Connor as we haven’t been introduced, that persists. I believe it’s her characters. They are people we’ve met, passed by, or lived with. We know them well.

From the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” wearing her white gloves, navy blue straw sailor hat with “a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print … In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.”

To the small-town busy bodies and do-gooders like the Baptist ladies at the post office, Mrs. Watts, Mrs. Carson, and Aimee Slocum in “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies.” Mrs. Watts with their pink hands, thimbled-finger, and wearing widow’s black and Mrs. Carson who has a tape measure hung over her bosom. They are a whirlwind lost in a cause that sucks the reader in over the scant few pages it takes to tell the story.

Flannery managed to fill her short writing life (from the age of twenty-one until she died at thirty-nine) with a collection of some of the finest short stories ever written—by writers from the South, the North or anywhere else in the world.

Read one. Read two. Read a handful. And enjoy the trip back in time with stories that could be told today, but no more skillfully than in Flannery’s hands.

Born in Savannah, Flannery spent most of her time and writing life in Milledgeville, Georgia where it’s easy to find traces of her life..


Georgia Writers Museum (and Book Store), Eatonton, Georgia

This month, I’ve taken a slight departure on the traditional book store to include a museum—the Georgia Writers Museum in Eatonton (Putnam County), Georgia, which also carries and sells books by local authors.

The museum hosts permanent exhibits to honor three of the state’s most famous authors (Alice Walker, Joel Chandler Harris, and Flannery O’Connor) who lived and worked in the area. Further, of the forty-six authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, nine hail from within thirty miles of Putnam County, and their works and artifacts are exhibited on a rotational basis at the museum.

But the Georgia Writers Museum is much more than a museum and today acts as a center for the literary art in the Georgia’s heartland. Rather than rest on its laurels and those of its featured authors, the museum is evolving to create “a modern day experience using leading edge virtual and augmented reality and 3D technology”—setting the bar for the next generation of Georgia authors.

To learn more or contribute to the Georgia Writers Museum’s outreach efforts, visit the Museum at 109 S. Jefferson St. in Eatonton or go to the website: georgiawritersmuseum.com

 

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Read Georgia

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Introducing my very own personal armchair travel itinerary for reading stories set in Georgia.  There are more authors and books to be added to the map and summaries to be written, but I had to start somewhere.  I’m also, deliberately omitting the “usual suspects,” like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and John Berendt’s Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil to shine a light on newer, and possibly lesser known works that I have read and that resonated within me and taught me more about my home state.

  • Raymond Atkins, Sweetwater Blues, set in a fictitious North Georgia, and I suspect not too far a stone’s throw from the author’s front porch in Rome, Georgia
  • Pete Dexter, Paris Trout, set somewhere down in the old cotton capitals of Georgia, and a book I read before coming to Georgia, the second time around.
  • Terry Kay, The Book of Marie. I could have chosen any one of Terry’s works but when I asked the author to pick just one, he picked this story of Atlanta’s past.
  • William Rawlings, A Killing in Ring Jaw Bluff. The prolific writer has been on to other things, still southern, still entertaining, but this earlier nonfiction work set in Sandersville back in the day, kept me riveted to the page
  • Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: A book I might not have picked up had I not heard Janisse speak at a literary festival, her story gripping, her words electric
  • Karin Slaughter, Broken, a must read for all fans of crime, mystery, suspense, and who don’t flinch. Set somewhere not too far east of the big A

I hope you enjoy the list and that you’ll find a new book or new author here or along the trail with me in coming months.

My Maps Georgia

Let me know who you believe should be added to the list!

And check back soon for the next edition of An Author and a Bookstore in Ellijay.

Decatur: Doug Dahlgren and Half Price Books

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Doug Dahlgren

Doug Dahlgren is perhaps most visible (or should I say “heard”) in the Atlanta area as the radio personality behind The Doug Dahlgren Show—formerly known as The Prologue. This weekly radio program is where Doug hosts discussions with authors whether local or from across the county. He’s a consummate professional, always prepared for the guest author and their latest book and making the author feel as if they’ve spent their life behind a microphone. Of course, Doug has help! His wife Donna is the secret sauce powering Doug’s show. She reads every book cover to cover, leaves reviews (bless her), and helps Doug prepare for each week’s broadcast.

But Doug is not just a radio show host, he is also an author in his own right. An author with a bucketful of five star reviews for his series of contemporary thrillers he dubs “plausible fiction.” From congressmen who are dying off mysteriously, to drug cartels that are gaining power, to a killer of former Navy Seals, to Russian gangs, federal agents, and the syndicate, Jonathan Crane, Dahlgren’s protagonist, battles for what’s right against formidable odds. And, of course, Crane survives to fight through the series of six novels. He’s an assassin known only as The Son. As such, Crane metes out justice according to his own rules of right and wrong, thankfully, rules aligned with the readers’ view of the world.

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The first in the series, The Son: Silas Rising, was penned in 2010 and followed with near super-human alacrity by the next five in the series, including The Daedalus Directive, the last, in three and a half years. Doug has a vocal and enthusiastic fan base, some comparing his work to Vince Flynn’s and finding a new hero to follow in Jonathan Crane now that Flynn has passed. Doug considered moving on to other settings and series after The Daedalus Directive, but because his fans clamored for more, he is writing a new stand-alone novel but returning to and reuniting some of the characters from the series. It no doubt will find a loyal readership.

Doug is a mild mannered, polite, individual, not someone you would at first think writes edge-of-the seat political suspense. So where does he get his ideas and how does he work what looks like magic? The answer is lots of research, naturally, including everything from espionage, to high-tech weapons, to belief systems in synch and at odds with America’s values. And, then, there are the characters that populate the novels. Doug says he studies people around him whether friends or relatives or complete strangers. Be careful what you say around Doug, or what you admit to knowing, you might find yourself cast in the role of one of his characters, if not in his well received series then in his unnamed new work perhaps!

Find out more about Doug Dahlgren on his website: dougdahlgren.com and about his radio show here: artistfirst.com/dahlgren  . If you are an author and are excited about the prospect of hearing your voice on the air, let Doug know.


Half Price Books – Decatur, GA

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What’s better than a book? A half-priced book.  That’s Half Price Books’ stock in trade. And yes, they sell new and used books and many at remarkable prices. Plus, they buy back books to sell again and spread the word. But that’s not the best thing about Half Price Books. To my way of thinking, it’s that despite its size (120 stores across the US), the company is still “family owned.”

Half Price Books’ family values show, too. Take for instance what they call “Local Author Saturdays” at the Decatur store and check out their schedule to know who’s coming next. And, perhaps my favorite event, even if it doesn’t involve books, Kitten Adoptions on March 25 as part of the store’s Lifeline Animal Project. Trust me, I know, pages fly by when you have a warm cuddly kitten in your lap.

Visit the Decatur Half Price Books at  2615 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, GA 30033 or on their website: hpb.com/125.

Introducing Acworth to Zebulon

 

August 9, 2016
 

Introducing a new blog post series on writing, writers, reading, books, bookstores, and other literary points of interest around Georgia. Come with me as I visit the people and places and read the stories that give life to our state in their words and deeds.

 
If you have a story to add a writer, book, or bookstore you’d like to read about here or if you would like to be featured in a future post on this site, contact me at: rona_simmons@bellsouth.net or leave a comment below.