Genre: Classic, Southern gothic fiction
Title: Wise Blood
Author: O’Connor, Flannery
Appeal Factors: grotesque characters, humor, Christian theme, quirky characters, classic, preacher, Southern literature
This was Flannery O’Connor’s first work of fiction. She labored over this title long and hard and it shows. Every name, every sentence, feels packed with meaning. The main character, Hazel Motes, (originally appearing in her short story The Train), is preaching a new religion. He claims that he is not a preacher. His religion is the Church of Christ without Christ.
Hazel’s granddaddy was a preacher. He would get up on the top of cars and preach the gospel. It does not appear that he was very kind to his grandson whose stint in the army has damaged him physically and emotionally.
We meet some really lost souls in this work of fiction: Enoch Emory, whose abusive father and odd stint with a social worker attending “Christian” schools that did not do him any good. Then there is Asa Hawks, a preacher who supposedly blinded himself for Christ. He wears dark glasses but…oops…he’s not really blind. His daughter, Sabbath Lily seems to have the hots for Hazel.
There is much more to this novel than meets the eye. This is a striking, one might say, shocking novel. The modern day reader can see shades of meaning that still resonate today when considering consumer culture and its ascension to the role of all powerful and, ultimately, unsatisfying as a guide.
I recommend this book for readers who enjoy: dark humor, classics, Southern literature, books that require one to roll up one’s sleeves and give a second look. Great entree to O’Connor’s huge body of short stories, novels, and essays.