Upcoming documentary on famed writer won first annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize
The directors of an award-winning documentary about late short story writer and essayist Flannery O'Connor are planning a hold a celebration for her on what would have been the author's 95th birthday.
The virtual event ("bring your own cake") will take place Wednesday, March 25; those interested in participating are invited to RSVP at flanneryfilm.com/birthday.
"In honor of this special occasion and the upcoming release of FLANNERY, we hope you'll join filmmakers Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, S.J. for an online reception at 1p ET / 12p CT to cheer to O'Connor's life and work," a press released announced on Monday. The online celebration will include updates on the documentary, which premiered at the Hope Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas last October.
"As a craftsperson, absolutely, she is masterful," Coffman says of O'Connor, who died of lupus in 1964 at the age of 39. Her many fans include singer-songwriters Bruce Springsteen and Lucinda Williams, Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones and writer Alice Walker.
O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925 and spent much of her adult life in Milledgeville, Georgia, pursuing her literary career despite the debilitating and painful nature of her illness. She is often classed among "Southern Gothic" writers, although it may be more accurate to describe her focus as on the grotesque. O'Connor responded with caustic wit to most attempts to label her work one way or another. In the posthumously published Mystery and Manners (1969), O'Connor wrote, "Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic."
O'Connor is among the rare noted Southern writers of her time to be devoutly Catholic, a key to understanding her worldview.
"I see what makes Flannery O'Connor unique among Southern writers, it's the way that she creates the story that's really grounded in universals and I really think it comes from her Roman Catholicism, to be honest with you," comments Bosco, a Jesuit priest and vice president for ministry and mission at Georgetown University. "There is a sense that truth, the sense of beauty and death and judgment is a cosmic question always for Flannery O'Connor and that she can concretize it in these finite, particular moments within the South. It gives a different kind of texture to her writing."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.