Robert Lowell, Flannery O'Connor, and the FBI

Robert Lowell's Day by Day was published thirty years ago this month, and shortly afterward won the National Book Critics Circle award-- hence this insightful essay by Adam Kirsch over at Critical Mass, the offical blog of the NBCC. Kirsch argues that, had Lowell lived more than a mere month beyond the book's publication, the volume might have come to seem a "modest, transitional work," and he laments that the rhetorical question near the end of the collection-- "Yet why not say what happened?"-- became "an ars poetica for a whole generation of poets," an "ethic of accuracy, based on pity for the transitory world."

Among his many grand accomplishments, Robert Lowell was responsible for introducing his publisher, Robert Giroux, to another Southern writer: Flannery O'Connor. Giroux recalled this at a tribute to O'Connor hosted by PEN American Center; his words were later published by PEN America. That introduction took place in 1949, the year that Lowell and O'Connor met at Yaddo. Both writers left the famous retreat after learning that it was under investigation by the FBI for ties to an alleged communist spy.

More details about that shady story are here; more tributes to Flannery O'Connor are here.

1 comment:

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