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Wise Blood ()


Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Novels (44)

    All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.
           -Flannery O'Connor

Wise Blood is Flannery O'Connor's grotesque picaresque tale of Hazel Motes of Eastrod, Tennessee; a young man who has come to the city of Taulkinham bringing with him an enormous resentment of Christianity and the clergy.  He is in an open state of rebellion against the rigidity of his itinerant preacher grandfather and his strict mother.  So when one of the first people he encounters is the blind street preacher Asa Hawks and Motes finds himself both attracted and repelled by Hawks' bewitching fifteen year old daughter Lily Sabbath, he reacts by establishing his own street ministry.  He founds the "Church without Christ":

    Listen you people, I'm going to take the truth with me wherever I go.  I'm going to preach it to
    whoever'll listen at whatever place.  I'm going to preach there was no Fall because there was
    nothing to fall from and no Redemption because there was no Fall and no Judgment because there
    wasn't the first two.  Nothing matters but that Jesus was a liar.

As you can guess the church is singularly unsuccessful, although he does attract a couple of other crackpots:  Enoch Emery a young man who works at the zoo and longs for a kind word from anybody; and Onnie Jay Holy, yet another rival preacher who believes Motes when he says he's found a "new jesus."

While at first this cast of bizarre characters, ranging from merely repugnant to truly evil, and the scenes of physical, moral and  spiritual degradation through which they pass all seem to be just a little too much, the reader is carried along by O'Connor's sure hand for dark comedy.  The book is very funny.  But as the story draws to a close, O'Connor's true mission is revealed; Motes loses his fight against faith and he achieves a kind of grace, becoming something like a Christian martyr to atone for his sins.  O'Connor has something serious and important to say about the modern human condition and the emptiness of a life without faith.  That she is able to disguise this message in such a ribald comic package is quite an achievement.

Reading the book inevitably called to mind Carson McCullers' dreadful book The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), which made the Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the Twentieth Century list.  It too is a Southern gothic, populated by dismal misanthropes.  But it is devoid of humor and has nothing to say about the characters and the world they've created.  Wise Blood is a superior novel in every sense and really deserves that spot on the list.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

Flannery O'Connor Links:

    -ESSAY: In Search of Flannery O’Connor (LAWRENCE DOWNES, February 4, 2007, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Flannery O'Connor: A Life by Jean W. Cash (Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, Washington Post)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)(kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "flannery o'connor"
    -ESSAY: Georgia's Flannery O'Connor muses on the pleasure, pain of writing in 1961 story  (Reprinted from an 1961 issue of The Athens Banner-Herald , Jacksonville.com)
    -The Columbia Encyclopedia: Sixth Edition.  2000:  O'Connor, Flannery
    -MEMORIAM: Elizabeth Bishop; Elizabeth Hardwick: Flannery O'Connor, 1925-1964 (NY Review of Books)
    -Georgia Women of Achievement:  1992 Inductee Flannery O'Connor
    -Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home
    -BIO: Mary Flannery O'Connor 1925-1964
    -The Flannery O'Connor Collection (Georgia College & State University, Ina Dillard Russell Library)
    -The Flannery O'Connor Page (SAC LitWeb)
    -Flannery O'Connor (Southern Communities)
    -PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide Chapter 10: Late Twentieth Century - Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)
    -Flannery O'Connor (1925-64) (American Literature on the Web)
    -Flannery O'Connor: The Comforts of Home
    -Flannery O'Connor:   Exploring the Mystery of Love and Hate
    -Flannery O'Connor Fan Page
    -A Student's Guide to Flannery O'Connor
    -Flannery O'Connor (created as part of the course ENGL 28: Major American Authors)
    -Flannery O'Connor (American Literature 1860-Present)
    -Flannery O'Connor Museum
    -Flannery O'Connor (Literature Database, Kutztown University)
    -ESSAY: The Violent Bear it Away and The Bible (Angela Lucey)
    -ETEXT: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
    -ESSAY : Lectio Divina : Flannery O'Connor Banned  (J. Bottum, Crisis)
    -ESSAY: Obliged to See God (Julie Polter, Sojourner Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Nature and Grace: Flannery O'Connor and the healing of Southern culture (Danny Duncan Collum, Sojourner)
    -ESSAY: A South Without Myths (Alice Walker, Sojourner)
    -ESSAY: Stumbling Onto the Spirit's Signposts (Shane Helmer, Sojourner)
    -ESSAY: Flannery O'Connor's Long Apprenticeship: Honing the Habits of Irony and Satire (Virginia Wray, The Antigonish Review)
    -ESSAY: The Dark Side of the Cross:  Flannery O'Connor's Short Fiction (Patrick Galloway)
    -ESSAY: A Good Writer is Hard to Find: The Search for Flannery O'Connor (Linda McGovern, Literary Traveler)
    -ESSAY: How to Read Flannery O'Connor: Passing by the Dragon (W. A. Sessions, Georgia State University)
    -ESSAY: 'Tin Jesus': The Intellectual in Selected Short Fiction of Flannery O'Connor (Jason Mitchell)
    -ESSAY: Faithfulness vs. Faith:   John Hustonís Version of Flannery OíConnorís Wise Blood (Pamela Demory/Lecturer in English, University of California, Davis)
    -ESSAY: Christianity vs. Entrapment in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (Chris Heller)
    -ESSAY: The Essex and Hazel Motes in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (Christopher B. Heller)
    -ESSAY: Haze and Enoch: A Contrast in Absurdity (William Wright)
    -ESSAY: Nature and Grace: Flannery O'Connor and the healing of Southern culture (Danny Duncan Collum)
    -ESSAY: That Wit of Flannery's (Harriet Kidd as told to Kim Hollinshead, Milken Family Foundation)
    -ESSAY: Obliged to See God (Julie Polter, Sojourners)
    -ESSAY: A South Without Myths  (Alice Walker, Sojourners)
    -ESSAY: Tin Jesus: The Intellectual In Selected Short Fiction By Flannery O'Connor (Jason P. Mitchell)
    -ESSAY: Crossing the "Black Line of Woods": A Contemporary Anagogical Perspective of O'Connor's Sentinel Line of Trees (Brian Patterson)
    -ESSAY: The Transfiguration of Time: Flannery O'Connor's disorienting fiction (David S. Cunningham)
    -ESSAY: "For Christ's Sake Fix Him" Use of the Child in Two Stories by Flannery O'Connor
    -ESSAY:  Flannery O'Connor's Long Apprenticeship: Honing the Habits of Irony and Satire (Virginia Wray, Antigonish Review)
    -ESSAY: Flannery O'Connor and the Theology of Discontent (Stephen Sparrow)
    -ESSAY: The Dark Side of the Cross: Flannery O'Connor's Short Fiction (PatWeb)
    -ESSAY: Flanner O'Conner's "Everything That Rises Must Converge" (Hanns Bowers)
    -ESSAY: Browse through Flannery O'Connor
    -ESSAY: "O'Connor Country" (Atlanta magazine)
    -ESSAY: A Good Writer is Hard to Find: The Search for Flannery O'Connor (Linda McGovern, Literary Traveler)
    -Flannery O'Connor: Mystery through Manners, Grace Through Nature (Southern Communities)
    -ESSAY: By the fall of 1962
    -ESSAY: Transcendence Through Transgression and Kenosis: Sin as Salvation and Self-Emptying in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (Michael Bryson)
    -ESSAY: Team Teaching Middle English Literature With Flannery O'Connor (Susan K. Hagen)
    -ESSAY: Fiction and faith (Michael Skube, y'all.com)
    -ESSAY: A Good Writer is Hard to Find (RONALD WEBER, Catholic Educator's Resource Center)
    -ESSAY: Flannery O'Connor's "Christ-Haunted" Souls (Poetess)
    -ESSAY: Killing Codes: Representations of Madness in White Southern Literature
    -ESSAY: Flannery O'Connor meet Stephen King (Stewart O'Nan)
    -ESSAY : Walker Percy and the Christian Scandal (Marion Montgomery, First Things)
    -ANNOTATIONS: from Medical Humanities
    -LINKS: Selected Internet Sites on Flannery O'Connor  (Skylar Hamilton Burris)
    -REVIEW: of Wise Blood (William Goyen, NY Times, May 18, 1952)
    -REVIEW: of FLANNERY O'CONNOR Collected Works: ''Wise Blood,'' ''A Good Man Is Hard to Find,'' ''The Violent Bear It Away" (Brian Moore, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Flannery O'Connor: The Collected Works (Robin Darling Young, First Things)
    -REVIEW: Irving Howe: Flannery O'Connor's Stories, NY Review of Books
        Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
    -REVIEW: Richard Gilman: On Flannery O'Connor, NY Review of Books
        Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
    -REVIEW: Robert Towers: Flannery O'Connor's Gifts, NY Review of Books
        The Habit of Being letters by Flannery O'Connor
    -REVIEW: Frederick Crews: The Power of Flannery O'Connor, NY Review of Books
        Collected Works by Flannery O'Connor and edited by Sally Fitzgerald
        The Art and Vision of Flannery O'Connor by Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr.
        The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith and Comic Vision in Four American Novelists by Ralph C. Wood
        Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity by Frederick Asals
    -REVIEW: of Understanding Flannery O'Connor By Margaret Earley Whitt,  Flannery O'Connor: The Woman, the Thinker, the Visionary  By Ted R. Spivey,  Writing against God:  Language as Message in the Literature of Flannery O'Connor By Joanne Halleran McMullen (Rachel V. Mills, East Carolina University. Mills, Southern Cultures)
 

GENERAL:
    -BOOK LIST: The best titles proclaiming or applying a biblical worldview in a hostile 20th century (The Editors, World Magazine)
    -ESSAY: What makes for 20th Century Catholic fiction?  A theory of what Catholic fiction is and what books conform to it (Tracy Dowling, Catholic Standard)
    -ESSAY:  Reconstructing Southern Women's Literature: A literary critic says it's more than sugar and honey (SCOTT HELLER, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY: AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR CREATOR (Dan Wakefield, NY Times Book Review)

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