Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux
A Publishing Partnership
Patrick J. Samway, SJ
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. The correspondence between O’Connor and Giroux, her immensely talented friend and publisher, stands as a testament of their mutual devotion, friendship, and admiration. He 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 publisher for the rest of her all-too-brief life (she died just shy of forty, in 1964)—with The Violent Bear It Away (1960) and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955), and with her major posthumous publications including Everything that Rises Must Converge (1965), The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1961), Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969), and The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O”Connor (ed. Sally Fitzgerald, 1979).
Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership sheds new light on an area 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 to become an internationally acclaimed 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 much of Giroux’s work as editor was accomplished 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 of O’Connor’s publishing history will interest, in addition to O’Connor’s fans, all readers and students of American literature.
“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