Flannery OíConnorís first novel, argued to be a classic of twentieth-century literature, is a fantastically ugly and compelling piece of work. OíConnorís characters are desperate, unlikable human beings. Her prose is elegantly morose, trying to find some beauty in vicious times and places.
Plainly, Wise Blood is a story about faith - the struggle with faith, the angry, misguided faith that has very little do with the fundamental elements of Christian theology and more to do with hungry, false prophets.
Wise Blood is the story of Hazel Motes. At a mere 22-years-old, Hazel rejects is familyís faith and leaves home to establish a new church - the Church without Christ. Hazeís endeavors in the small town of Taulkinham link him with people who are more out of touch than he is. A ďblindĒ street preacher and his degenerate daughter, as well as an odd young man, Enoch Emery, influence Hazelís experiences in unexpected ways.
As much as the people of this backward town are lost, in an almost comical way, they do not understand Hazelís assertions of a church without Christ. It quickly becomes the church of Christ without Christ, the opposite of what she intended.
OíConnorís writing, particularly Wise Blood, is often described as fierce, animal, sharp, terrifying, energetic and haunting. I would like to add captivating. The main character is a horrible cad with few to no redeeming qualities, but you cannot fight the desire to see him through to the end. Can he succeed in pushing God out of his life?
The town of Taulkinham and its inhabitants live in a different world, but you could probably point the car in any direction and hit a Taulkinham before leaving the state.
OíConnor unearths the desperation and ugly desire of small town America and the arrogance of youth. With only two novels, 31 short stories and a few essays, OíConnorís mere 39 years on earth was short but fierce. Sometimes the pretentious critics get it right.