Novelist/memoirist Mary Gordon to speak at Fairfield University

Novelist/memoirist Mary Gordon to speak at Fairfield University

Image: Mary Gordon Distinguished novelist Mary Gordon, who has written eloquently about faith and family in "The Shadow Man" and other acclaimed works, will lecture on classic writer Flannery O'Connor on Monday, April 4, at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Her speak, entitled "Flannery's Kiss," is the first annual Catholicism and the Arts Lecture sponsored by the Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Chair of Catholic Studies, which is held by Paul Lakeland, Ph.D.

Gordon, who has been fond of O'Connor since early in her career, will discuss the Southern short story author's effect on her own style and career.

"For my writing life, Flannery has been an inspiration and a torment," she said.

Raised in working-class New York, Gordon has long considered faith in her work, including her early novels, 1978's "Final Payments" (Random House, 1978) and 1981's "The Company of Women." But she strives to not be pegged solely as a "Catholic writer."

"Which is not to say that I don't think the experience of Catholicism has been extremely formative, but I think if you say 'Catholic writer,' you give people an excuse not to read you, and I don't like that kind of closure," she has said.

Gordon, who holds degrees from Barnard College and Syracuse University, focused on the universal struggles of domesticity and human fellowship in her 1985 novel "Men and Angels," which revolves around an art historian who hires a psychotic religious fanatic as a mother's helper. She followed that with the multi-generational immigrant saga "The Other Side" in 1989.

Her most personal work to date has been "The Shadow Man," her 1996 account of her search for the truth about her beloved father, who died when she was seven. Delving into library archives, census records and yearbooks, she confirmed her suspicions that her father - a man who claimed to be a descendant of French aristocrats who studied at the Harvard and Oxford universities - was actually a Lithuanian immigrant who dropped out of school at 16 and, despite being of Jewish descent, was a virulent anti-Semite.

Though traumatic, Gordon found learning the truth cathartic.

"I no longer had to be afraid of the ghost jumping out of the closet," she wrote of the experience.

Gordon, who has also written collections of short stories, essays and novellas, is the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English at Barnard College. She lives in Manhattan with her two children and her husband, Arthur Cash, who teaches at SUNY New Paltz.

Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call Dr. Lakeland at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2492 or e-mail

Posted On: 03-23-2005 10:03 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 209