The Long and Winding Road

Okay, last bit on the Gooch bio of O’Connor, I promise. But Gooch himself is kind of a fascinating case, and if I were a rich Catholic editor, I’d send someone to chat with him. The story in his acknowledgements would make a fine jumping-off point.

By the time O’Connor’s The Habit of Being came out in 1979, O’Connor was already Gooch’s “favorite fiction writer.” He was a Columbia grad student with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and detected in O’Connor “the subtle tug of a spiritual quest in a dark universe animated by grace and significance.”

Gooch wrote to O’Connor’s longtime friend and supporter Sally Fitzgerald, who had edited The Habit of Being, and proposed writing O’Connor’s biography. Fitzgerald demurred, writing in reply that she was already working on a bio of her own. Disappointed, Gooch patiently waited for its publication. And waited. And then, “Sally Fitzgerald…died in June 2000, at the age of eighty-three, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript that has yet to appear.” (Another story worth investigating…)

Gooch writes, “As my personal test for deciding on projects has always been to write the book I want to read but cannot find on the shelf, I could think of no better choice” than the O’Connor biography.

But in the meantime, Gooch wrote a bunch of other books that he couldn’t find on the shelf. There were a bunch of gay-themed novels: Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, and Zombie00. There were a couple of gay self-help books: Finding the Boyfriend Within: A Practical Guide for Tapping Into Your Own Source of Love, Happiness, and Respect and Dating the Greek Gods: Empowering Spiritual Messages on Sex and Love, Creativity and Wisdom. There was City Poet, his bio of gay poet Frank O’Hara. And of course, there was Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America.

So yeah – it’s interesting to note that two of O’Connor’s dear friends were women who found women attractive, and it is not particularly surprising or bothersome that Gooch would choose to highlight such things. (As a Catholic, I would likely have focused more on her experience of faith and the development of her theology.) But I think Gooch would be happy to acknowledge that the subject of his most recent biography, were she alive today, would very likely find in his earlier material grist for her particular fictional mill. Spiritual meanderings? Finding the boyfriend within? Empowering messages on creativity? A story about a young man who seeks to become a zombie and subjects himself to the sexual sadism of various masters? This is pitching to O’Connor’s wheelhouse. I would be very interested to hear Gooch’s own thoughts on the matter.

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