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Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
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Wise Blood (1952)

by Flannery O'Connor

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2,642742,263 (3.87)192
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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Pretty fantastic. Well composed short little book here. Great characters, interesting story, good writing. The ending really sealed the deal for me. The description on the back described this as Kafkaesque. I disagree. I think something like The Cannibal is far closer to Kafka than this. However, I'm not sure what I would describe this as. Perhaps in a league of its own. Hazel Motes, you're one interesting character.

[update:] Also, reading more about how this book is a book of redemption and pro-religion (if I'm reading these analyses and O'Connor interviews correctly), I am shocked that I, an atheist, loved this book so much, and did not have the take away message O'Connor seemed to want to write. Hazel Motes is a really sad character. But, is it because he has shunned religion? Or, something more complex. For one, he seems haunted by religion, as if religion has seriously hindered his mental health. Secondly, we know he just got back from a war... another factor that would lead to poor mental health. What I am saying is, he seems broken, but not because he is running from religion, but for more complex reasons. Is his self-flagellation supposed to be a good thing?
Is there any positive religious figure in this book? Asa Hawks isn't, nor is the other false preacher who mimics Motes. Nor Sabbath or Enoch. Am I missing something? In the end, the landlady sees light in his eye sockets. But she is literally looking into the empty sockets of a dead person. Why should we believe that this means he ultimately found salvation? Is there any evidence that religion is good at all in this book?
And please note, that although I am an atheist, I do not hate all religions. I hate dogma, yes. But not necessarily religion. Which I guess is why I am shocked that this book provides no example of such a thing... (not that it has to, I guess. It just seems like Flannery O'Connor had a message to get across, and I seem to be reading the opposite one that she intended.)
Regardless, as I said earlier, such an incredibly fun, dark, complex book. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Dal suolo dello sciroccato fanatismo religioso del Sud degli USA, grazie alle cure di una divertita e divertente Flannery O'Connor è spuntato un fiore di una bellezza grottesca e comica. ( )
  downisthenewup | Aug 17, 2017 |
Hazel "Haze" Motes, a 22-year-old, has just returned from the war and becomes a preacher of the Church of Truth Without Christ, a church of his own creation that he uses to spread words against God, judgement, sin or evil.

This is a unique work of "low comedy and high seriousness", where a feeling of lack of purpose mixes with a sense of mysterious predestination to give this novel the right setting to discuss religion and humanity. ( )
1 vote jmx | Jun 20, 2017 |
I'll be sure to read everything written by Flannery O'Connor (sadly, in her 39 years it wasn't more.) But with this one, it seems like her short stories might be a little better than her novels. This one was slightly scattered, things didn't tie together well enough for me. Many random events, which I guess is true to life. I can just see Enoch's story as a phenomenal bizarre short story. Short stories don't need to be tied together and have everything answered and from O'Connor her stories are simply gut punches. But there are smaller gut punches here in sentences and ideas. As separate stories (I've read the book is a combined four stories anyway) I might have liked this book better. Hazel seemed like a religious Bartleby to me and it seems I've been seeing many Bartlebys in fiction lately. Melville would be proud. Off to watch the film. ( )
  booklove2 | Oct 15, 2016 |
3.5 stars. This is a fascinating character study and satire from the mid-20th century. The main character, returning from the war, is frustrated by his own confused feelings about faith. Professing The Church Without Christ, he finds himself competing with (and teased by) other street preachers. He's also pursued by a lonely zoo guard searching for a lost Jesus, a 15-year-old girl, a policeman, and later his landlady, all with different intentions. Even though the characters were arresting and mysterious, they were all quite repulsive and/or irritating, which made the book hard for me to enjoy. I also have lots of unanswered questions about characters' motivations, which left me unsatisfied. (Only the landlady's motivations seemed to have any logical explanation.)

Despite that, it was interesting enough that I would consider rereading it to see if I could understand it better. I would recommend this for group discussion. ( )
  Connie-D | Sep 30, 2016 |
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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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Book description
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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