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Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O'Connor

Wise Blood: A Novel (original 1952; edition 2007)

by Flannery O'Connor

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2,298602,766 (3.89)154
Title:Wise Blood: A Novel
Authors:Flannery O'Connor
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2007), Paperback, 232 pages
Collections:Your library, @Church
Tags:Fiction, Roman Catholic, Religion

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Wise Blood: A Novel by Flannery O'Connor (1952)


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Wise Blood. Flannery O’Connor. 1962. This is O’Connor’s first novel and the first novel I have read by her. It is just as strange and absurd as her short stories which I think I like better. Hazel Moats struggles in vain to rid himself of his faith. After he meets Asa Hawkes, a phony, blind street preacher and his horny daughter, Moats decides to establish his own Church of God without Christ. He also meets Enoch Emery who is even stranger than Hawkes. Emery explains the concept of “wise blood” and shows Hazel a mummified man Emery claims to be a holy child. Like O’Connor’s short stories, this novel is full of symbolism, faith and lack of faith, redemption and damnation. This is not the book to read for anyone who is unfamiliar with O’Connor. I read this title for our book club, and we also read, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” one of her most famous stories. It was great! ( )
1 vote judithrs | May 18, 2015 |
Off its hinges. A typical quote: "To his mind, an opportunity to insult a successful ape came from the hand of Providence." The message seems to be: if Hazel and Enoch can't be redeemed somehow then none of us can. I'm on board with that. ( )
1 vote JMlibrarian | Feb 27, 2015 |
I can unhesitatingly say I'm not smart enough to understand what was going on in this book. (Possibly the most basic description I can make would be _A Confederacy of Dunces_ with religious themes.) However, it was written with such genius of words and imagery that I didn't care. Call me shallow. ( )
1 vote emepps | Jan 23, 2015 |
In the Author’s Note to the Second Edition, written in 1962, Ms. O’Connor quite candidly writes “Wise Blood was written by an author congenitally innocent of theory…”. Kudos to her, at least, for that confession.

I’ve always considered Flannery O’Connor to be one of the pillars of Southern (American) literature. And that she was able to produce as much — and as much great — literature before succumbing to the ravages of systemic lupus erythematosus at the age of only 39 remains a wonder to me.

That said, I don’t believe that Wise Blood shows her skills in their best light. I’ll grant that as a first novel, Wise Blood shows promise — or at least elicits interest. But the work is disjointed — and at times, downright sloppy. As an example of the latter, take the following paragraph from Chapter 8, an otherwise quite humorous tract on the character of Enoch Emery, one of the principal characters in Wise Blood:

“This was a disappointment to him because he had hoped that the money would be for some new clothes for him, and here he saw it going into a set of drapes. He didn’t know what the gilt was for until he got home with it; when he got home with it, he sat down in front of the slop-jar in the washstand, unlocked it, and painted the inside of it with the gilt (emphasis mine).”

Am I being overly fastidious — even captious — with the above criticism? Not, I believe, for someone of Flannery O’Connor’s reputation.

Erskine Caldwell — another Southern great — does wonders with repetition (or rather, with slight syntactical variations on the same thought or expression). Ms. O’Connor’s repetition, however, strikes me as slovenly — as if she simply couldn’t be bothered to re-read (and obviously edit out mistakes in) her work.

But the larger error in Wise Blood — or so, at least, it seems to me — is that the story meanders, and that certain plot-points would seem to have no (or very little) real raison-d’être. At the same time, characters appear out of the blue — and then disappear just as readily (and inexplicably).

I realize that my criticism of the work of this literary icon borders on blasphemy. But if memory serves, I once felt that Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter — also her first novel, by the way — was not without flaws.

I’m very happy to be able to say that, of the three “Graces” of Southern (American) literature — Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers and Eudora Welty — the first two went on to produce incredible work (although I must confess, I just never quite got the allure of Eudora Welty). Wise Blood just isn’t among those works.

Brooklyn, NY
( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor shows the strength of the Christian Spirit in Modern-Times, especially in the Southern Bible-Belt. The Bible is something people live through down here(this reviewer lives in Lakeland Florida, a hot bed Christian revival). The bible is not an abstracted idea that one believes. O'Connor shows the depth of the blood that is wise through the giving of ones life to the Gospel. It is a short novel, but one that will haunt you for a long time. O'Connor is proclaiming to the world that there is nothing for your pain but the Blood of Jesus Christ, by showing characters who attempt to make their own gospel. Hazel attempts to have a church without Christ. Hazel's hope rests in a car that will not move forward. He attempts to direct the divine path, but finds that like Noah (in the story about a whale) that he can't subtract or add form a debt that has all ready been paid in full. We like Hazel stuff gravel in our shoes, attempting to perfect our own walk. And all this does is hurt our feet. We are merely pinpoints of light awash in the flood of being. OConnor proclaims that a church without Christ falls off the cliff never to be put back together again. I recommend this book to anyone interested in faith, the church, Southern Sensibilities, or anyone interested in a great read. Two clucks way up.

( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 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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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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