By Tom Congalton
All three of the books by O'Connor that were published in her short lifetime are scarce, and expensive in fine condition. Her first book, the novel Wise Blood, (1952) was manufactured with cheap cardboard boards and white jacket, neither of which are usually found in nice condition. Her second book, an incomparable collection of short stories published in 1955 A Good Man is Hard to Find, (and sometimes waggishly referred to as "A Hard Man is Good to Find") needs to have reviews for Wide Blood on the rear panel, otherwise it is a later issue. Her third book The Violent Bear It Away, (1960) is an exception to the publisher's usual rule for indicating first edition, and bears no indication that it is a first. We once bought a copy for a few dollars in South Carolina from a leading specialist in Southern literature that didn't know this, and made a not unsatisfying profit. O'Connor suffered from a debilitating illness and died at the age of 39 – material signed by he is difficult to come by. Some time in the 1980s, we went with first edition dealer Jeff Marks to the wilds of rural Alabama and bought a new roof for a plantation house in exchange for a cache of signed books and letters that O'Connor had sent to the current owner's aunt, who herself had been a minor Southern novelist. The letters revealed a sense of humor that is every bit as engaging as her books, and oh, what she said about her rival and neighbor Harper Lee...!
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