Rome Journal #2
Reason, Fiction and Faith: An International Flannery O'Connor Conference
20 April 2009
Pontifica Universita Della Santa Croce (the university hosting the conference) is the "new kid on the block"--the newest Pontifical University in Rome. The conference organizer, Prof. Fr. John Wauk (a former Pennsylvania resident) is a vibrant professor here in Rome.
William Sessions (left) and Rosemary Magee (right) are among the O’Connor scholars here, along with Ralph Wood and Susan Srigley. Special guests Ughetta Fitzgerald (the daughter of Robert and Sally Fitzgerald) and Davide Rondoni (a poet and dramatist from the University of Bologna, founder of their Center for Contemporary Poetry) are terrific additions. I’ve met scholars from Buenos Aires and Portugal, Canada and Georgia. We sit in conference sessions wearing headsets like we’re at the United Nations—behind us, there is a wall of tinted glass where the elusive translators sit.
(Left) Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern writer known for her harrowing novels and short stories, which fuse orthodox Catholicism with transformational violence. Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Quentin Tarantino cite her as an influence; Conan O’Brien and Tommy Lee Jones each wrote their senior thesis on O’Connor’s work. Her most popular stories include those from the short story collections A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her writing is vivid and ferocious—and widely misread and misunderstood.
And, Flannery O'Connor was very funny.
“Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers,” O’Connor once said (when discussing fiction writers). “My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”
O’Connor traveled to Notre Dame to present a talk to writers in 1955. When she arrived home to Milledgeville, Georgia, she found that her mother had hung new frilly curtains in her bedroom. “The curtains have to go,” O’Connor said, “lest they ruin my prose.” T
Today's food report: Cappucino, Gelato, Tomato/Basil/ Mozarella sandwich (in that order). There was a "coffee break" at the conference, and I spent ten minutes looking for the coffee. Then, I realized that tiny plastic cups (like thimbles! the size that holds a swig of mouthwash!) were there for us to serve ourselves espresso.