A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND. BUT I FOUND ONE IN SAVANNAH.

Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said.  “It’s no real pleasure in life.

 

300x300The Misfit in A Good Man is Hard to Find is one of Flannery O’Connor’s most cruel and depraved villains. 

In this short story, a grandmother leads her exasperated family on a wild goose chase in rural Georgia. While looking for the site of her girlhood homestead, she inadvertently brings her whole family to their deaths at the hands of a tortured killer, The Misfit.

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O’Connor was unapologetically religious and not particularly known for a sunny disposition yet her brief but productive career exemplifies the best of Southern Gothic literature.

O’Connor created works of moral fiction that, according to Joyce Carol Oates, “were not refined New Yorker stories of the era in which nothing happens except inside the characters’ minds, but stories in which something happens of irreversible magnitude, often death by violent means.”

 

The South impresses its image on the Southern writer from the moment he is able to distinguish one sound from another…the Southern writer’s greatest tie with the South is through his ear.

-Flannery O’Conor

In her distinctive Georgian drawl, O’Connor tells the story of a fateful family trip in this rare recording.

 

 

You can read the short story here.

 

 

I visited her home in Savannah, walked the leafy East Charlton Street, and sat in the church where she attended mass nearly every day, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in Lafayette Square.

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I’ve always been curious about what Flannery O’Connor was like as a kid. Turns out she was a “pigeon-toed only child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex”. 

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An avid reader from an early age, the young O’Connor wrote comments on the leaves of her childhood books. For Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, she skewered Lewis Carroll with a succinct review: Awful. I wouldn’t read this book. The note on Shirley Watkins’s Georgina Finds Herself was even harsher: This is the worst book I ever read next to “Pinnochio”. Little Men survived Flannery’s scrutiny with its dignity intact: First rate, splendid.

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As a child, Flannery O’Connor illustrated chickens, “the same chicken over and over,” and she wrote occasional verse. Her artwork was probably inspired by the ducks and chickens she kept as pets in the backyard of the Savannah row house.

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O’Connor was an avid cartoonist as well as a writer. For her high school and college publications in the 1940’s, she created drawings cut from linoleum.  While the content is related to her experience as a student, the slightly skewed perspective is vintage O’Connor.

In addition to a cutting wit, O’Connor had a fondness for fowl and coffee mixed with Coca-Cola.  She led a fairly sheltered life that she once said would not be remembered because “lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.”

She could not have been more wrong.

Flannery O’Connor saw, heard, and experienced the same things as everyone else but, out of those ordinary daily events, she imagined extraordinary possibilities. She sharpened and intensified what she saw with unusual twists and unexpected turns, influenced by living in that defining Southern town of Savannah.

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O’Connor eked out the last years of her life in relative solitude with her mother, turning her childhood home into a makeshift bird sanctuary before dying of lupus at 39.

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There’s one new surprise to be discovered, though, tucked under the stairs on East Charleton Street.  It’s a Little Free Library.  I think Flannery would have liked that.

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As for that good man I found in Savannah, his name is Stratton Leopold. But that’s for another post.

Toni 6/9/15

 

 

 

 

 

THE LIBRARY THAT BELONGS TO EVERYONE ~ IT’S LITTLE AND IT’S FREE

The Little Free Libraries project is the brainchild of Todd Bol.

The first Little Free Library I ever saw was in Savannah.  What a charmer, tucked under the stairs on East Charleton Street, the site of Flannery O’Conner’s childhood home.

 

Now these little book boxes have gone viral.  (Find one near you here.) This one is ready for it’s coming out party, in front of my YMCA in Stuart, FL.

 

Here’s the skinny.  There are no rules or fines, the books are always free. If you see something you want to read, take it.  You can leave a note in the book if you want. When you’re finished with a book, pass it along to a friend or return it to any Little Free Library.  I’ve got one ready to tuck inside after the ribbon-cutting.

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In a time when Google, Amazon, and Netflix unnervingly predict what we want to read/watch/think, it’s crackling good fun to open the door of a Little Free Library.

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Want to build your own?  I know I do.  But, if you’re like me, you have minimal non-existent carpentry skills. No worries. It’s a cakewalk.

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Little Free Libraries are bringing people together through books. The political right likes them. So does the left. Who says ‘no’ to reading?

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Little Free Libraries bring out our sweeter side.  So, what are you waiting for?

Whatcha Readin’ ? is the new Hello.

Toni 2/25/17

 

 

OUR LIVES ARE WRITTEN IN DISAPPEARING INK.* OR, A AS TIBETAN MONK MIGHT SAY, SAND.

Millions of grains of sand, painstakingly laid into place.

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I watched monks from Tibet create a sand Mandala at the Cultural Gallery in Stuart, FL.

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Of all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. And impermanent.

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One day some people came to the master and asked: How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence, where you cannot protect your loved ones from harm, illness or death? The master held up a glass and said: Someone gave me this glass; It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight. I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. I know this glass is already broken, so I enjoy it – incredibly.                             -Ajahn Chah

 

 

A sand-painted Mandala is a tool for consecrating the earth and its inhabitants. According to Tibetan Buddhist belief, a Mandala has outer, inner, and secret meanings. The outer level symbolizes the world in its divine form.

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The inner level represents a map of the human mind as it transforms into an enlightened one. The secret level depicts the primordial balance of body energies and dimensions of the mind.

The monks began with an opening ceremony to consecrate the site of the Mandala with chanting, music, and mantras.

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They designed the mandala on a table, measuring and drawing architectural lines with a straight-edged ruler, a compass, and a white ink pen. Very exacting work.

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During the creation, the monks pour millions of grains of sand from a chakpur, a funnel-shaped metal tool.

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The funnel is filled with the colored grains and then rasped to release a fine stream of sand. Work begins at the center of the mandala, moving outward, for a week.

Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.       -Nhat Hanh

During the closing ceremony, the monks deconstruct the Mandala, sweeping up the colored sand as a symbol of impermanence, a reminder to us that everything has a beginning and an end.

 

They give half of the sand to onlookers as a blessing for their personal health and healing.

Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News A Tibetan Buddhist monk pours sand from the mandala into the Savannah River Sunday afternoon to conclude a week in residence at the Jepson Center where they created a healing mandala and then deconstructed it.

The monks carry the rest of the sand to the St. Lucie River, where they watch as the grains drift downstream to the ocean. Healing blessings radiate across the planet.

We want things to be permanent, but that can’t be. It’s impossible. Whether we laugh or cry over them, things just go their own way. I don’t know of any science yet that can prevent it. My dentist checks my teeth, but even if he fixes them, they’ll still go their own way. (I’m sure my dentist knows this, even about his own teeth.) Hard as it is to accept, everything falls apart in the end.

The monks did more than paint with sand. They taught me that impermanence is the very essence of joy. We all need a drop of bitterness to appreciate the sweet.

Toni 2/16/17

*header quote, Michelle Cliff, Jamaican author