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Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

Wise Blood (1952)

by Flannery O'Connor

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Before I get completely slammed for the low rating on this book, I do think this book was well written. The rating reflects my personal reaction after reading it. 2 stars = 'it was ok'. I didn't enjoy it, but I could definitely see how this might appeal to some people. I've read short stories by Flannery O'Connor and she has a brilliant wit - dark, sarcastic, biting, but brilliant. This novel is about Hazel Motes, a Southern preacher who is questioning his own faith and decides to start a new religion, The Church of God Without Christ and goes around proselytizing his new beliefs. Maybe because I am an atheist/agnostic and am not from the South, but somehow, I didn't find this book to be a commentary on anything that I'm familiar with. Just not my cup of tea. ( )
  jmoncton | Jul 27, 2014 |
Hazel Motes gets out of the army and arbitrarily goes to a generic southern city to play out his damage. He has lost his father and mother and grandfather. While traveling on a sleeper to the city he has a dream in which each in turn manage to spring out of their coffins, miraculously alive. Then he wakes up. He is in a fury at Jesus, presumably for failing him, though his specific anger on the matter is never addressed. A rage burns within him which he cannot satisfy, no matter what he does. Even when he begins the Church Without Christ and begins to "preach" from the hood of his old car. He reminds me of the inarticulate family Naipaul writes about in The Enigma of Arrival, who, because they lack language, can only act out their sufferings in quasi-violent ways. To say that Hazel Motes eventually addresses matters through recourse to violence gives nothing away. When reading the closing pages its seems all too, not predictable, but correct, from the standpoint of his character. O'Connor refers to him as Haze, a nickname that captures wonderfully his undirected nature. His last name is Motes, specks of dust in the air, seems an apt metaphor for his lack of direction as well. The book has amazing moments throughout and an adroitly handled suspense grips the reader. Be advised, this book makes liberal use in the early going of the n-word. At first my sense was that O'Connor knew how these people would speak and what words they would use, and these are the words she used. But this seems false when one considers that such persons realistically must have cursed a blue streak, too, yet none of those words made their way into the text. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Hazel Motes was raised to believe in Jesus, but he always saw Jesus as more of a threat to be feared than as a positive good. As an adult, he creates a church without Jesus and finds that other ministers are often frauds anyway.

I liked this novel, but it was nothing Earth shattering. It did, however, make me want to read more from O'Connor. I liked it. I just wasn't blown away by it. ( )
  fuzzy_patters | Jun 10, 2014 |
Incredible! ( )
  AaronKappel | May 22, 2014 |
Strange tale about a man and how his denial of God leads him down some comic and not so comic paths. ( )
  charlie68 | May 4, 2014 |
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Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car.
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Hazel Motes returns from the military to find his home abandoned. He is a man in religious crisis. His own grandfather was a revival preacher, yet he has rejected not only faith, but the entire story of Jesus.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374530637, Paperback)

Wise Blood is a comedy with a fierce, Old Testament soul. Flannery O'Connor has no truck with such newfangled notions as psychology. Driven by forces outside their control, her characters are as one-dimensional--and mysterious--as figures on a frieze. Hazel Motes, for instance, has the temperament of a martyr, even though he spends most of the book trying to get God to go away. As a child he's convinced that "the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin." When that doesn't work, and when he returns from Korea determined "to be converted to nothing instead of evil," he still can't go anywhere without being mistaken for a preacher. (Not that the hat and shiny glare-blue suit help.) No matter what Hazel does, Jesus moves "from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark..."

Adrift after four years in the service, Hazel takes a train to the city of Taulkinham, buys himself a "rat-colored car," and sets about preaching on street corners for the Church Without Christ, "where the blind don't see and the lame don't walk and what's dead stays that way." Along the way he meets Enoch Emery, who's only 18 years old but already works for the city, as well the blind preacher Asa Hawks and his illegitimate daughter, Sabbath Lily. (Her letter to an advice column: "Dear Mary, I am a bastard and a bastard shall not enter the kingdom of heaven as we all know, but I have this personality that makes boys follow me. Do you think I should neck or not?") Subsequent events involve a desiccated, centuries-old dwarf--Gonga the Giant Jungle Monarch--and Hazel's nemesis, Hoover Shoats, who starts the rival Church of Christ Without Christ. If you think these events don't end happily, you might be right.

Wise Blood is a savage satire of America's secular, commercial culture, as well as the humanism it holds so dear ("Dear Sabbath," Mary Brittle writes back, "Light necking is acceptable, but I think your real problem is one of adjustment to the modern world. Perhaps you ought to re-examine your religious values to see if they meet your needs in Life.") But the book's ultimate purpose is Religious, with a capital R--no metaphors, no allusions, just the thing itself in all its fierce glory. When Hazel whispers "I'm not clean," for instance, O'Connor thinks he is perfectly right. For readers unaccustomed to holding low comedy and high seriousness in their heads at the same time, all this can come as something of a shock. Who else could offer an allegory about free will, redemption, and original sin right alongside the more elemental pleasure of witnessing Enoch Emery dress up in a gorilla suit? Nobody else, that's who. And that's OK. More than one Flannery O'Connor in this world might show us more truth than we could bear. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:20 -0400)

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The passengers on the train to Taulkinham show mixed reactions when Haze questions their belief in Jesus.

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