Flannery O'Connor's astonishing and haunting first novel is a classic of 20th-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a 22-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a "blind" street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate 15-year-old daughter.
In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel founds The Church of God Without Christ but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with "wise blood," who leads him to a mummified holy child and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel's existential struggles.
This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, and wisdom gives us one of the most riveting characters in American fiction.
©1990 The Estate of Mary Flannery O'Connor (P)2010 Blackstone Audio
"No other major American writer of our century has constructed a fictional world so energetically and forthrightly charged by religious investigation." (The New Yorker)
"There is in Flannery O'Connor a fierceness of literary gesture, an angriness of observation, a facility for catching, as an animal eye in the wilderness, cunningly and at one sharp glance, the shape and detail and animal intention of enemy and foe." (The New York Times Book Review)
Classics,contemporary fiction, Politics, Philosophy, Economics - a weekly eye on The New Yorker & The Guardian and dense word style/play.
Having come to this with some eagerness from a recommendation - or was that an indirect citation - from Donna Tartt, I must confess to being again greatly disappointed with the Southern Gothic genre to which this is attributed as a masterpiece. I previously struggled with William Faulkner and finally managed to get it - enjoying Sanctuary far more than As I Lay Dying but I am beginning to suspect that that is as far as I am going to go with it....I really could not make head or tail of this one - supposedly a comedy of grotesques. Grotesque, yes. Preachers of all sorts, casual prostitutes, panhandlers and low lifes - I can all just about handle, even though they are presented in a rag-bag narrative that I found impossible to follow.....but men (was it a man?) dressed in Gorilla outfits, buckets of lime used to self-inflict blindness and a sudden mid-air cut out of an ending. Where did it come from, where did it go to - I'm clueless. I could just about live with the repeated bashing over the head with the N-word- and would not even attempt to go there in terms of thinking about how the realism might somehow excuse the casual and comprehensive racism of the society - I'm not convinced that there was an ironic distancing...it was just repeated, plain and unpleasant. I know that a lot of time and effort has been spent in habilitating or rehabilitating Southern writers, but for me, in the context period of the 1940's it just doesn't wash. I saw a great production of Killer Joe by Tracey Letts around ten years ago and at that point the smoking gun was pointed squarely at Trailer Trash and I guess that is pretty much where the focus has been in this sort of Gothic writing for the past twenty years. Not uniformly edifying but certainly good enough in parts to warrant and occasional return to the genre. But Flannery O'Connor, for all my good intentions and the hype will probably have seen the last of me.
"Grotesque Southern Gothic Masterpiece"
Holy crap and profit! I think Flannery O'Connor could go 10 rounds with Cormac McCarthy and still end with a draw. Wise Blood is an amazing look at sin, heresy, apostasy and redemption(?). No. Redemption might just be too hopeful for this O'Connor. Wise Blood is an amazing reworking of several of her shorter stories, but where this novel might have ended up as some Frankensteinian monster in lesser hands, Wise Blood pulls it off. It is a monster for sure, but you never should confuse a grotesque Southern Gothic masterpiece with a deformed literary Prometheus. This novel is amazing
"Excellent novel, some problems with the narration"
First off, let me say that I was really very impressed with the book. On the surface, it's basically a freak show of religious nuts, con artists and madmen, with none of the plot lines making too much sense; but when you go beyond the surface you see the different themes -- religious, philosophical, social -- that make this such a deeply brilliant and open-ended work.
However, a couple of things about the narration bothered me. Bronson Pinchot has a very clear and pleasant voice, but I felt almost like he was performing the characters, rather than narrating a book. The biggest problem was that whenever characters speak in a low voice he actually whispers. For anyone who listens to audiobooks while commuting, this makes some phrases almost impossible to hear. Indeed, I had to listen to some passages over and over again before I could make them out.
The other issue I had with his narration is more a matter of taste: he took great care to give the characters different voices, but to me it resulted in over-interpretation. For example, he performs one character in the book (Enoch) as having a permanently stuffy nose, so that he would pronounce "I mean it" as "I bead it". Now, there is no trace of this in the printed book (I checked), and so I feel like the narration added more than I wanted. Like I said, I'm sure many people wouldn't mind this at all, but I like narrators to add the minimum required for me to be able to differentiate speakers, no more.
So, in the bottom line, I would recommend this book, but if, like me, you listen to audiobooks in an environment where there is some outside noise, or you prefer a more subdued narration style, be prepared.
Bronson Pinchot does an excellent job of bringing this wonderful classic to life. I think Flannery O'conner would be proud of this reading. Thanks Audible. I hope you bring us more from this author.
I'm sad that this was the last Flannery O ' Connor audiobook left for me to listen to after finishing the other three weeks ago. Regardless, this will be an audiobook I will listen to again...and again. I read this years ago, but listening to it was an even better experience. Bronson Pinchot brings this story to life and very much gives it the zest O ' Connor regarded to in the introduction of this novel. This story is so many things; crazy, funny, weird, and thought provoking. I love her flawed, crazy characters and getting in their heads to understand why they do the crazy things that they do. Flannery is one of my favorites and I look forward to listening to all of these audiobooks again.
"Overall, Quite Good."
I agree that Mr. Pinchot's narration is a bit more spirited than some readers would likely prefer. But I think he actually does a decent job, and the story itself is excellent. Classic Southern Gothic, from a brilliant author.
"Haunting and Haunted"
This is a hard book to listen to because it depends so much on her particular, bleak sense of modern American life. I very much admire some of her short stories, and they're a skeleton key for me in beginning to understand this. She calls it a "comic novel," and there are clearly parts that could be funny. In the context of this God-forsaken world, though -- and "Godforsaken" has a particular if difficult sometimes to parse meaning in O'Connor's works -- nothing is really funny. It's a lot of suffering brought on by incomplete understanding of the possibility for salvation. As a Jew, I admire the intensity of the work, but I can't say it speaks to me entirely.
The reader was fabulous, giving real character to different voices.
I was disappointed in myself that I didn't like this book. It was recommended to me by a friend whose opinion about literature I value - we usually enjoy similar things. A southerner myself, I just couldn't get beyond the bizarre southern characters in this book - I just didn't care about them, in fact, I disliked them a lot. I quit about halfway through and may go back to it, but I doubt it.
"Good parody of the Republican/Tea Party Base"
After reading the story about 30 years ago, it was fun to listen to it as a parody of the Current Southern Gothic Political Party (Often called theRepublican/Tea Party. It reads like a cultural parody of them.
Enoch Emory for his sad, agressive lonliness and the way he reaches out to others by thrusting himself onto them, sort of like Mitt Romney.
What's not to like with something this delicous?
Ned Beatty's character, Hoover Shoates, the slick huckster who made Hazel Motes' unsaleable religion into something popular. Sort of like Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich.
No disrespect, I come from the south and know and love these characters. I grew up with them. First time I read the story back in the 60s or 70s I was seriously struggling to make them coherent as literature. Now, it was much fun, I got all the works of O'connor through Audible and also read the recent novel by Ann Napolitano, A Good Hard Look (Highly recommended). Is it my fault that in the midst of my reading, Hoover Shoates, Enoch Emory and Hazel Motes should be reincarnated in TV debates as Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The debates are still going on so there is still time to catch the wave brother. Ha Ha.
"Wise Blood -"
I would try another book by Flannery O'Connor just because she is so famous. She seems to be a favorite of many well read people that I know. I would consider trying a few more of her books just to see what everyone is talking about. Bronson Pinchot did a good job of narrating Wise Blood.
Too much dialogue with very flawed characters. I can think of nothing redeeming about the Wise Blood except that I finished it in hopes that it would end well. I was disappointed as I finished the book.
Wise Blood was the choice of my young adult children's book club. I could suggest many other books that would be more enjoyable and challenging for discussion.
Narrator was exceptional. Actually like several short stories put together and made into a book. Disappointing.
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