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Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O'Connor

Wise Blood: A Novel (1952)

by Flannery O'Connor

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One religious/anti-religious nutcase meets a seemingly mentally ill man who unsuccessfully tries to control his bad impulses (he of the wise blood). They meet a charlatan preacher and his daughter, who gives nutcase #1 ideas.

Supposedly this is all alleghory/symbolism/whatever. That seems likely, because otherwise it is just plain weird. I am not a huge fan of the novel as symbolism (and only if the author admitted to such symbolism)--and I have no idea who means what etc etc.

My copy (from the library) had some highlights and some pretty funny notes in the margins (OH NO...hisself; he's a CON artist; WHY?!). Those comments made this read a little funny for me--whoever that person was, he/she saw things differently than I did. ( )
  Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
O'Connor's voice is like a narrative prayer in which the reader bathes [in a transformative fluid]. Upon completion, I felt raw and completely vulnerable. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Nathan Keener The book is very strange yet underneath the text something worth remembering is whispering at me. I have to listen again. There can be truth in violence. And some truths only come out by violence.
( )
  NAKnott | Jan 1, 2016 |
I was not expecting this novel to be so derivative of Miss Lonelyhearts (young man with Messiah complex, cast of misfits, even brief appearance by advice columnist, deadpan narration of increasingly bizarre episodes--all that is missing is Shrike, unless that is Hawks), but then it makes a kind of sense to me now to see Nathanael West as a major influence on O'Connor's work generally. This is perhaps a truism of O'Connor criticism, but it was a discovery for me.

I really liked the opening chapter, but by Chapter 8 I was getting restless: it is too monotonous and repetitive for even a short novel to get away with. (I feel the same way about Miss L.) I guess O'Connor was more in her element when painting on a smaller canvas. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
There's probably a bright line that runs from William Faulkner to Flannery O'Connor to Cormac McCarthy, but I'll leave that for others to describe. What interests me is the little branch line that runs from O'Connor to Joe R Lansdale, converging, I'm sure, with many lines from the likes of Hemingway and ER Burroughs. Lansdale and Connor have an amazing amount in common: there are similarities of style, voice, setting and preoccupations. Lansdlae, of course, is firmly and unashamedly a genre writer: crime, horror, fantasy or sci fi all mix it up in his novels and stories. Nonetheless, the strangest and most bizarre occurrences in his work are often firmly situated in the quotidian, usually at the point where violence, stupidity and random acts of fate intersect. O'Connor isn't quite as gonzo as Lansdale, and in this book at least, she demonstrates a dedication to her singularity of vision and a commitment to the senseless logic of her character's lives that shows why Lansdale is someone you read for deliciously bizarre entertainment, and O'Connor is someone you read for a vision of the world warped by heat and religion and insanity and guilt into a fun-house reflection of the human condition.

Hazel Motes preaches the word of The Church Without Christ, trying to chase Jesus out of people's lives, but really trying to chase Him out of his own head. He haunts the blind preacher Asa Hawkes, hoping to be saved, and tangles with Asa's twisted daughter, while his own unwanted disciple, Enoch Emery, offers up a new messiah.

This is a fierce, shouted, heated tale that takes some untangling. Naked impulse and unshakeable certainty built on a foundation of loss and fear and death and rejection and guilt rule the lives of Hazel and Enoch, as if they can free themselves from the trap of the world by bluster and rage. The world rarely even acknowledges them, and then only as a nuisance. Whether in the end they achieve some form of freedom or peace of mind is hard to say, but they each make a bloody sacrifice to get there. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:20 -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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