Joel's Reviews > Wise Blood

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
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's review
Sep 20, 2008

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Read in September, 2008

I love me some Flannery O'Connor short stories, but this took a while for me to get into. Her characters are so skewed, so not-quite-right, that it's tough to relate to them in any way. Enoch Emory is crazy, Hazel Motes is obsessed and fanatical, and Sabbath Hawks is nasty and twisted in her own right.

But that's kind of the point. O'Connor's grotesque characters are both inexorably tied to and alienated from their Christianity--in fact, from any moral center at all. That disconnect makes them strangely physical characters, and O'Connor details each action carefully, even the seemingly minute ones. Yet her simple style is effective in showing men (and a couple of women) who are lost--in need of some sort of affirmation or connection. Hazel, for examples, starts out hating the woman across the seat for him but also sure the black porter on the train grew up in the same tiny town as he did. He needs to be recognized, he needs his worldview validated. But it's empty, and barren, and corrupt.

The book really picked up in its last three chapters, as all three characters make choices and commit actions that are terrible and, again, grotesque. It's shocking and it's compelling, and ultimately it's pretty interesting.

If you like O'Connor's short stories, the novel is worth a read. And if you haven't read O'Connor's short stories, then go start with those.
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