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#21 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 09 June 2005 - 08:48 PM

QUOTE(Mark @ Jun 9 2005, 05:14 PM)
QUOTE(Christian @ Jun 9 2005, 12:43 PM)
It's a comic novel? Geez. I've been misreading it!

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The chapter 1 scene on the train, with such vivid characterizations (the woman with the "poisonous Eastern accent" for example) is some priceless stuff.

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" I reckon you think you've been redeemed"

This is a fascinating thread for me -- up until now I'd not talked with anyone who didn't see the book as comedy.

I'm also surprised at the scant mention here of the film version by John Huston. It is very true to the novel. I own the video, so I've watched it about 20 times. There have been times when I've said to myself (about some line in the film): Wait, that line is not in the book! So, I'd go get the book off the shelf and, sure enough, they had used FOC's words verbatim.

Of course in the book, Hazel buys an Essex, and in the film it's a 1958 Ford Fairlane, but most folks will not be bothered by that. The car is the wrong colour, too. One important scene is omitted from the film, and that is when Hazel goes into The Frosty Bottle. But these minor flaws are more than made up for by Harry Dean Stanton as Asa Hawks ... fabulous!

Things to watch for in the book:

Why did Onnie Jay Holy tell Hazel that he reminded him of "Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln"?

What critique is FOC making about the automobile?

Edited by anglicanbeachparty, 09 June 2005 - 08:49 PM.


#22 Christian

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 05:56 AM

Don't mean to sound high 'n' mighty, but are you saying I'm supposed to be amused by the racist attitudes on exhibit in the first chapter or two? If so, was that sort of "humor" considered acceptable when the book was written?

I admit it: I grew up laughing at most racist jokes, and didn't feel guilty about it, even when people pointed out to me that the jokes were in poor taste. But those jokes lost any appeal years ago. If this book is supposed to take me back to the days of my youth, I'm not sure I can go with it.

But again, I'm probably mis-reading the book as an indictment of those attitudes, right?

#23 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 06:36 AM

QUOTE(Christian @ Jun 10 2005, 06:56 AM)
Don't mean to sound high 'n' mighty, but are you saying I'm supposed to be amused by the racist attitudes on exhibit in the first chapter or two? If so, was that sort of "humor" considered acceptable when the book was written?

I admit it: I grew up laughing at most racist jokes, and didn't feel guilty about it, even when people pointed out to me that the jokes were in poor taste. But those jokes lost any appeal years ago. If this book is supposed to take me back to the days of my youth, I'm not sure I can go with it.

But again, I'm probably mis-reading the book as an indictment of those attitudes, right?

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Flannery is, of course, condemning racism (and she does so more forcefully in some of the short stories ... I can look up which ones, if you're interested).

But, above all, FOC began with the world as it is (warts and all), and Wise Blood is set in a very racist time and place. That is the very atmosphere of the book. But racism is not one of the major themes of either of either Wise Blood or The Violent Bear It Away. I am loathe to say (at this point, while some people are just starting the book) what I think the major themes of Wise Blood are. I certainly would love to, later.

Just to give you a brief idea of how central this book has been to my life, here is a photo of the grille I used for several years on the 1963 Olds wagon I bought in rural Georgia, during a pilgrimage to Flannery's grave in Milledgeville (A Bird Sanctuary).

[attachmentid=245]

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#24 Christian

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 06:48 AM

Anglican: Your passion for Wise Blood is inspiring! I appreciate your comments and hope to dive into the book ... soon.

#25 Mark

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 08:25 AM

QUOTE(Christian @ Jun 10 2005, 05:56 AM)
Don't mean to sound high 'n' mighty, but are you saying I'm supposed to be amused by the racist attitudes on exhibit in the first chapter or two? If so, was that sort of "humor" considered acceptable when the book was written?

I admit it: I grew up laughing at most racist jokes, and didn't feel guilty about it, even when people pointed out to me that the jokes were in poor taste. But those jokes lost any appeal years ago. If this book is supposed to take me back to the days of my youth, I'm not sure I can go with it.

But again, I'm probably mis-reading the book as an indictment of those attitudes, right?

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Christian, I grew up the same way, and probably for that reason HATE any kind of race-based jokes, once I figured out what was at the bottom of 'em. That train scene in chapter 1, though... and maybe I'm misreading it ... hits me as social satire that's something other than racist. As Haze moves through the compartments, he's the outcast, the un-saved white trashy kid, who comes up against Eastern snobbery and is even looked down upon by the black porter. And even as he tries to bait the porter, after recognizing him, the porter is wise enough to brush him off, insisting he's from Chicago.

Still working on my first cup of coffee, so I'm not all here yet, and will try to hold off posting until I'm coherent.

QUOTE(anglicanbeachparty @ Jun 10 2005, 06:36 AM)
Flannery is, of course, condemning racism (and she does so more forcefully in some of the short stories ... I can look up which ones, if you're interested).

But, above all, FOC began with the world as it is (warts and all), and Wise Blood is set in a very racist time and place.  That is the very atmosphere of the book.

That's what I absolutely love about O'Connor's writing, how she so accurately presents "the world as it is." That's why many people have a hard time with her (Diane and I chatted about this) and can't see those "moments of grace" she plants in some of the violent and ugly moments of her characters' lives. It'd be easy to read her work and think she just hated everyone. (paraphrasing an anecdote Diane related)

QUOTE
Just to give you a brief idea of how central this book has been to my life, here is a photo of the grille I used for several years on the 1963 Olds wagon I bought in rural Georgia, during a pilgrimage to Flannery's grave in Milledgeville (A Bird Sanctuary).
[attachmentid=245]

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Very COOL!!! cool.gif

#26 Diane

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 08:54 AM

QUOTE(Christian @ Jun 10 2005, 05:56 AM)
Don't mean to sound high 'n' mighty, but are you saying I'm supposed to be amused by the racist attitudes on exhibit in the first chapter or two? If so, was that sort of "humor" considered acceptable when the book was written?

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Of course not, Christian. I don't think O'Connor ever meant for those scenes to be taken as funny. But that's already been pointed out. I also don't think this would have been considered as humorous among the literary circle that took O'Connor's writing very seriously, either. Like Mark said, Haze is the one who comes off looking terrible during his encounter with the porter.

I will say that this aspect is *very* troubling (as it well should be) and led to a bit of hesitation when I recommended the book. It also caused some worry when I started to reread, so I'm glad we're addressing this now. I grew up in Birmingham, so my history of this city has made me well aware of the time and place O'Connor described, and her portrayal of the times seems deadly accurate, sadly. It's certainly upsetting. I have some older relatives who make me uncomfortable because they still hold these views, so yeah, I'm also quite aware of how offensive it is.

QUOTE(anglicanbeachparty @ Jun 10 2005, 06:36 AM)
Flannery is, of course, condemning racism (and she does so more forcefully in some of the short stories ... I can look up which ones, if you're interested).


Revelation and Everything That Rises Must Converge immediately come to mind.

By the way, what I find so humorous is the social satire and the sheer weirdness of so many of her characters.

QUOTE
Just to give you a brief idea of how central this book has been to my life, here is a photo of the grille I used for several years on the 1963 Olds wagon I bought in rural Georgia, during a pilgrimage to Flannery's grave in Milledgeville (A Bird Sanctuary).
[attachmentid=245]

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WHOA. That is just too cool!

By the way, here's the thread on the film version. Beware of spoilers1.gif !

Oh, I think I'm going to have *so* much to say once we dive in.....

Edited by Diane, 10 June 2005 - 09:12 AM.


#27 Crow

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 11:19 AM

I have finished reading "Wise Blood". I'll go ahead and post some initial impressions:

The book presents a world of black and white, very little color, in its imagery or in its characters. The descriptions of the landscape and of the people are stark and really make me picture this world. It's depiction of religion is definitely not "seeker-friendly". It's a world that I would never want to live in, but there's enough of a darkly comic touch to make this book oddly compelling.

In a number of ways I see this book as a satire on Southern culture and Southern Fundamentalism in its time. As a Catholic, O'Connor could observe this culture as an outsider, and see both the sincerity of its adherents as well as its lack of love.

Some ways that the novel twists aspects of Fundamentalism that I see:
Spoiler


Though I don't like the racism, I think that O'Connor is able to use dark comedy to show how ridiculous these attitudes are.

In
Spoiler
, there must be a glimmer of true faith in here somewhere. I'll have to think some more about where to find it, as well as trying to figure out what the ending means. smile.gif

I'm looking forward to discussing this more. ABP's questions have made me want to reread some scenes again

There is a kind of Flannery O'Connor "blog", made up of comments she made during her life. In it, there is an entry about her views on free will and determinism, though attributable to another story, seems to have some relevance to Wise Blood as well.

http://flanneryoconn...m.html#comments

Edited by Crow, 10 June 2005 - 11:20 AM.


#28 Christian

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 11:44 AM

QUOTE(Crow @ Jun 10 2005, 11:19 AM)
As a Catholic, O'Connor could observe this culture as an outsider, and see both the sincerity of its adherents as well as its lack of love. 

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I skipped the blacked out text, but this sentence caught my eye. I feel the same way sometimes about Catholicism, as I observe it from my own "outsider" perspective.


#29 bluewoad

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 06:22 PM

Commenting a bit late here, but Christian, I'd say the book is comic in the ironic sense. When we speak of something being comic, we don't always mean it is humorous in the laugh-out-loud way. Irony is comic, but it is also painful to witness at times, and that's what we've got here in Wise Blood. Although there are a few humorous scenes, most of the comedy is what scholars call the comedy of the grotesque: fraught with irony and very easy to misunderstand. Eerdmans, a few years back, put out a book about the grotesque in literature. I'd give you the title, but it's buried in a box downstairs and I'm lazy. smile.gif

#30 Mark

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 09:48 AM

Some thoughts about theme that occurred to me while reading deeper this weekend.

One of the things I love about O'Connor is the way she depicts a pecking order for outcasts. All her characters are outsiders, grostequeries - and yet, instead of finding solace in each other, they answer to their own hierarchy.

So on the train she has the haughty Eastern women looking down on everyone, and Haze condescending to the black porter, oblivious to the fact that Haze himself is considered a step or two below the porter. Off the train, Haze brushes off Enoch (a great comic character) when Enoch tries to befriend Haze out of loneliness.

Also love the whole theme of pursuit running through the early chapters - Haze chasing Lily, Asa chasing Haze's soul, Enoch chasing Haze's friendship. And the intro to Haze's non-faith faith has a raggedy Jesus hiding behind trees in pursuit of Haze - becoming, in Haze's mind, a satanic figure trying to steal his soul by tempting him to salvation.

My favorite chapter 1 passage:

The boy didn't need to hear it. There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin. He knew by the time he was twelve years old that he was going to be a preacher. Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown.

#31 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 09:54 AM

Great observations, Mark.
QUOTE(Mark @ Jun 13 2005, 10:48 AM)
Also love the whole theme of pursuit running through the early chapters - Haze chasing Lily, Asa chasing Haze's soul, Enoch chasing Haze's friendship. And the intro to Haze's non-faith faith has a raggedy Jesus hiding behind trees in pursuit of Haze - becoming, in Haze's mind, a satanic figure trying to steal his soul by tempting him to salvation.

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This one, in particular is a very strong one. And it shows up prominently in O'Connor's other (later) novel, also ... The Violent Bear It Away ... where the young Tarwater is hounded by both God and Satan.


#32 gigi

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 03:49 PM

Finished reading this a little bit ago and was left a little perplexed to say the least. I think that's what bugged me the most was that most of the time I was just like 'what on earth is going on'. Especially coming from a godless and practical northern town in the UK whose citizens would probably react to the characters in this book by saying 'ooh don't be so daft' or 'can't be doing with that kind of nonsense, dear'. It was a world removed and pretty darn difficult to find any semblances of similarity to mine.

I respect her talent, I respect that it's got interesting ideas, I get 'the comedy' but I just gosh darn didn't like it - it's too clever, and I honestly never thought I would say those words, and I just couldn't appreciate it because of this. Perhaps it is the ironic tone, which is so unrelenting, or perhaps its because as she states in the introduction that there is only one way she intended it and it really isn't possible to read it in any other way. One thing along these lines that really, I mean REALLY, got my goat was how the chapters were devised. They were all so short and tightly compacted to fit into a space that contained a narrative/character/thematic development that I found it almost insulting.

I suppose this ability to manipulate language is a sign of a good writer but I felt that she just left no room for the reader. I am, however, reading some literature around her to try and see if maybe I have missed something. Having said all this, I would be more willing to read her other works - particularly the short stories because from what I've read so far she seems ideally suited to that format - than I would most other writers. At least there are clear signs of a brain at work here. I suspect though, that it's a conflict in writing styles and am unlikely to come round.

I did like the short section that discussed Haze's past & experiences of the war, and there were moments that were almost painted - that darn hat, and the passage where he first steps into his erm... not-really-lover's room. She captures light wonderfully.

And that's all I got for now.

Edited by gigi, 13 June 2005 - 03:51 PM.


#33 Diane

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 03:54 PM

I enjoyed reading your thoughts, gigi, and I'm glad you weighed in.

I'll have to jump in when I can. Swamped right now, but I'm really appreciating the conversation here.

#34 Diane

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 04:36 PM

I'm back....

QUOTE(gigi @ Jun 13 2005, 03:49 PM)
Finished reading this a little bit ago and was left a little perplexed to say the least.  I think that's what bugged me the most was that most of the time I was just like 'what on earth is going on'.  Especially coming from a godless and practical northern town in the UK whose citizens would probably react to the characters in this book by saying 'ooh don't be so daft' or 'can't be doing with that kind of nonsense, dear'.  It was a world removed and pretty darn difficult to find any semblances of similarity to mine.


What? You mean you've never encountered a street preacher standing in the back of a truck yelling that everyone within hearing distance was going to hell? I have. It happened in Florida after a day at the beach.

I just had to share that.

I've also been asked if I've ever done any snake handling, by the way (during a business call I made to someone in, oh, New York, maybe?). That's neither here nor there, really, but it shows how some folks think about religion and the South. For the record: I've never done any snake handling, though I touched one once during a field trip to the zoo.

OK. I'd better go because I'm only rambling now. smile.gif Maybe I can contribute something more meaningful later.

#35 gigi

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 04:41 PM

Snakes are cool. Mhmmm.

I don't live in London, which is about the only place in the UK where people preach (Hyde Park Corner). And oh my the variety of stuff they preach there. But no. Religion is mostly practised quietly here. Have you heard 'God is in the House' by Nick Cave? Kind of like that without the rancour.

#36 Diane

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 04:51 PM

Heh. We have a curious mix here. The church I attend is very traditional and staid, but not too far down the street from where I work, you can pass the "honk if you love Jesus!" man on the side of the road.

Man, I really need to listen to some Nick Cave.... I will say, though, that some songs by 16 Horsepower would work as a soundtrack to O'Connor's world.

#37 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 05:35 PM

QUOTE(gigi @ Jun 13 2005, 04:49 PM)
One thing along these lines that really, I mean REALLY, got my goat was how the chapters were devised.  They were all so short and tightly compacted to fit into a space that contained a narrative/character/thematic development that I found it almost insulting.

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This may be a function of the fact the several of the chapters were written earlier as stand-alone short stories. You can read them in The Complete Stories. I agree that the short story is where she's at her best. But even considered as merely a collection of related short stories, I would still like Wise Blood.


#38 Mark

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 11:10 AM

QUOTE(gigi @ Jun 13 2005, 03:49 PM)
Especially coming from a godless and practical northern town in the UK whose citizens would probably react to the characters in this book by saying 'ooh don't be so daft' or 'can't be doing with that kind of nonsense, dear'.  It was a world removed and pretty darn difficult to find any semblances of similarity to mine.

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QUOTE(Diane @ Jun 13 2005, 04:36 PM)
What? You mean you've never encountered a street preacher standing in the back of a truck yelling that everyone within hearing distance was going to hell? I have. It happened in Florida after a day at the beach.

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This is a really interesting contrast of cultures. O'Connor is so good at creating a sense of place that it can be very difficult for a reader outside that world to step into it. When Christian and Diane were talking about racism earlier in the thread, this New England boy had to go back and say, "Hmmm ... now, where exactly was the racism?" Once I looked again, it was evident. But it didn't jump at me as it might have if I were from the South and perhaps more sensitive to those issues. So it's not surprising that gigi would have a hard time relating to the characters and place, because they are so specific to O'Connor's world, IMO.

Still, I find the strengths of the story and characterizations more than enough compensation for trying to overcome the cultural differences.

QUOTE(anglicanbeachparty @ Jun 13 2005, 05:35 PM)
This may be a function of the fact the several of the chapters were written earlier as stand-alone short stories.  You can read them in The Complete Stories.  I agree that the short story is where she's at her best. 

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Interesting! I didn't know the chapters were intended as short stories. But yeah, gigi, O'Connor's short stories rock. Try A Good Man is Hard to Find - if you don't like that one, chances are you won't like anything she wrote. wink.gif

#39 Diane

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 12:59 PM

I find it interesting to note how O'Connor portrays modern society and its sheer indifference or hostility toward anything it suspects is religious (including lumping Haze's own anti-religious rants into the category of just another religious fanatic spouting off).

Chapter 1 shows Mrs. Hitchcock answering Haze's accusation that she thinks she's been redeemed with this rather feeble response: She blushed. After a second she said yes, life was an inspiration and then she said she was hungry and asked him if he didn't want to go to the diner. So, brush it off with some sort of feel-good answer and quickly change the subject.

In the diner, Haze sits with the young women and addresses one:

"Do you think I believe in Jesus?" he said, leaning toward her and speaking almost as if he were breathless. "Well, I wouldn't even if He existed. Even if He was on this train."

"Who said you had to?" she asked in a poisonous Eastern voice.

He drew back.


Haze so obviously expects confrontation and an arguement, but when he's met with such indifference, he's left speechless.

I'm jumping ahead a bit, but one of my favorite passages from the book, one that describes this indifferent, blind attitude so beautifully, comes at the beginning of chapter 3, as Haze explores the city.

His second night in Taulkinham, Hazel Motes walked along downtown close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying any attention to the sky. The stores in Taulkinham stayed open on Thursday nights so that people could have an extra opportunity to see what was for sale.

And then, jumping ahead again, there's this answer from the advice columnist to Sabbath:

"...I think your real problem is one of adjustment to the modern world. Perhaps you ought to re-examine your religious values to see if they meet your needs in life. A religious experience can be a beautiful addition to living if you put it in the proper perspective and do not let it wharf you. Read some books on ethical culture."

Such delicious and biting social commentary! Witty, too.

Edited by Diane, 14 June 2005 - 01:00 PM.


#40 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 01:41 PM

QUOTE(Diane @ Jun 14 2005, 01:59 PM)
I find it interesting to note how O'Connor portrays modern society and its sheer indifference or hostility toward anything it suspects is religious (including lumping Haze's own anti-religious rants into the category of just another religious fanatic spouting off).

{ snip}

Such delicious and biting social commentary! Witty, too.

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Diane,

I agree with all that you wrote here. FOC's wit is such that, even when I (in this example, because of being a Protestant, in other cases because of being a car fanatic) end up on the pointed end of one of her barbs, I have to laugh out loud. My favourite is when
Spoiler