Thursday December 3rd, 2009

“It was not gin but rum (unopened) and the steps were slick…”

flannery1To accompany this week’s review of Thomas Mallon’s book about letters, each day the blog will feature two letters. If there is a Mount Olympus of letter-writers, Flannery O’Connor stands at or near the top of it. So this is the first of two letters of hers that I’ll share, the second appearing tomorrow morning. O’Connor wrote the letter below to Robert Lowell on December 25, 1958. It’s taken from The Habit of Being edited by Sally Fitzgerald, a must-have for anyone’s library.

It is mighty unseemly of you to enshrine me in your memory falling up the steps with a bottle of gin. I recollect the incident. It was not gin but rum (unopened) and the steps were slick . . . In our house the liquor is kept in the bathroom closet between the Draino and the plunger, and you don’t get any unless you are about dead. The last time I had any was when I dropped the side of the chicken brooder on my foot and broke my toe.

This spring we spent four days with the Fitzgeralds in Levanto and then Sally went with us to Paris and Lourdes and then to Rome. Europe didn’t affect me none, but since coming back my bone has begun to recalcify, an improvement that was not expected.

I would like to think I will finish my book this year but this may be just what I would like to think. I will hope to read yours.

My love to you and Elizabeth and Harriet. That Harriet is going to take over if you don’t watch out. You ought to raise her in the South and then she wouldn’t have to go to school. I am really looking forward to the next generation being uneducated.