Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Book 101: Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (Finished).

"There are all kinds of truth ... but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there's no truth."

I have always been intrigued by O'Connor's work. I'm not sure why, since I have had absolutely no exposure to any of her writing, but it was always there. Something mystical and special.

She is one of those American writers that I think captures a piece of America so well. Like Steinbeck and others, she is able to give voice to certain groups of Americans in a realistic way. After all, we are a country that is divided into regional beliefs and ideals, so the ability to focus on that is great for an American writer (and you can totally disagree with me if you'd like-I just feel that we are somewhat defined by where we are geologically). In any case, O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood, really does focus on a certain group of Americans.

Hazel Motes is a war veteran who is returning home after his time abroad (the reader is not given specifics). He is traveling by train and is repeatedly told he looks like a preacher. This irritates him because he hates preachers and religion. He feels as though religion has failed him entirely and determines that the only way to be free from sin is to also be free from his own soul. He ends up in a city and meets a traveling preacher and his daughter. Inspired, Motes creates the Church Without Christ and begins preaching.

No one really follows his teachings, and it seems that Hazel is lacking in purpose. But he continues to preach that the only way to be free from anything is to believe in nothing. Through a long course of events, he learns that the preacher he first met when he entered town was a fake. Some other things happen and his life takes a drastic turn.

I don't want to give away the last half of the book. It was grotesque, but fitting in some kind of twisted way. I mean, I didn't like Hazel Motes. I couldn't relate to him or his ideas at any point in the narration, but I did feel like I was pulling for him to "get it together" eventually. I don't know if he ever did...but the novel discusses his views on religion and what it means to have faith in different ways. It also points out that some religion is false-in the characters of the false preacher and his daughter. It actually says a lot of things about religion, around religion, etc that I had a hard time keeping straight. Most of all, I think the novel just pointed out that religion is personal-people believe in different things for different reasons. And that's okay.

I should be honest and say the story didn't grip me until nearly the end. The first half I was plodding through, unsure of just what exactly I was reading. It wasn't until Hazel loses it against an impostor that I was hooked. I will say that the writing style was phenomenal and for that alone, I know I am going to read more of O'Connor's writing.


  1. Flannery O'Connor is an interesting character herself. I've read and enjoyed many of her short stories, many of which include issues of faith. My favorite short story of hers is called "Good Country People" and features a woman with a PhD in Philosophy whose faith is in nothing. Good stuff! I have this one on my shelf -- will have to bump it up.

  2. Here's an author biography I'd love to read!

  3. This one I found freaking werid but I still really liked the atmosphere the book had. I would love to read some of her short stories