Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux
A Publishing Partnership
By Patrick J. Samway, S.J.
When Robert Lowell first introduced Flannery O’Connor to Robert Giroux in March 1949, even she could not have imagined the impact of that meeting on her life, and on the landscape of postwar American literature. Giroux acquired her first novel, Wise Blood (1952), for Harcourt, Brace; and after his move to the firm now known as Farrar, Straus & Giroux, he remained her friend and publisher for the rest of her all-too-brief life (she died just shy of forty, in 1964), with A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and with major posthumous publications including The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1961), Everything that Rises Must Converge (1965), Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969), and The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O”Connor (ed. Sally Fitzgerald, 1979).
The written correspondence between O’Connor and Giroux stands as a testament of their mutual devotion, friendship, and admiration; and Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership sheds new light on a dimension of Flannery O’Connor’s life—her relationship with her editors—that has not been well documented or narrated by critics and biographers. Impressively researched and rich in biographical details, this book chronicles Giroux’s and O’Connor’s personal and professional relationship, not omitting their circle of friends and fellow writers, including Robert Lowell, Caroline Gordon, Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, Allen Tate, Thomas Merton, and Robert Penn Warren. As Patrick Samway explains, Giroux guided O’Connor along her path to international acclaim as writer of fiction and nonfiction, especially during the years when she suffered from lupus at her home in Milledgeville, Georgia, a disease that eventually proved fatal. Excerpts from their correspondence, some of which are published here for the first time, reveal how Giroux maintained his supportive presence as editor through his letters to Milledgeville. They are gracious, discerning, and appreciative, just when they needed to be. In Father Samway’s portrait of O’Connor as an extraordinarily dedicated writer and businesswoman, she emerges as savvy, pragmatic, focused, and determined. This engrossing account will interest O’Connor’s many devoted readers as well as students of the history of American literary publishing.
“Among the merits of Patrick Samway’s new book is how very much history Samway brings to bear on the relationship between Flannery O’Connor and her editor and friend Robert Giroux. In his presentation, the story of their efforts together across fifteen years carries with it countless particulars from the literary history of their age—a history in which Robert Giroux can be seen more clearly than ever as a central figure.” —Paul Elie, author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
“A masterful account of the literary and personal relationship between O’Connor the brilliant writer and Giroux the editor par excellence. Using a wide range of sources, Patrick Samway, S.J., situates both O’Connor and Giroux within a broad context of biographical, historical, cultural, and literary influences and traces their mutual development and growing friendship as it developed into an intimate editor/author partnership. Samway’s own skills as an editor—his impressive command of details, his judicious insights and judgments, his sensitivity to the challenges both figures faced in their careers—helps create a nuanced narrative of two of the brightest literary presences of the twentieth century.” —John F. Desmond, author of Risen Sons: Flannery O’Connor’s Vision of History
“Patrick Samway, S.J., locates Flannery O’Connor in a new country—not in the South of her red clay roads and not in the realm of the Christian sacred but in the literary marketplace of writers, editors, and publishers. His work shows how O’Connor did not leave publication matters to accident or to the angels; rather, she collaborated happily with editor Robert Giroux to bring her writing into print. The book vividly and meticulously chronicles as never before the sheer busyness with which O’Connor pursued the business of publication.” —Gary Ciuba, author of Desire, Violence, and Divinity in Modern Southern Fiction: Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy