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)
"Little comfort in this Southern masterpiece"
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.
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