December's Reading group: Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

For our faith-themed book, an intense story from the American South. I believe it's going to be very good

The hat has spoken – and this month we're going to be looking at Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. As luck has it, it's the 60th anniversary of O'Connor's debut, so this is an excellent way to celebrate an enduring (if all too short-lived) talent.

And since our theme this month is faith, a confession: At this stage, I don't know much more about Flannery O'Connor than what I've gleaned from a quick read of Wikipedia. But already that's enough to make me think it's going to be a fascinating month. Try this quote, about Wise Blood's protagonist Hazel Motes, for size:

"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 might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown."

And here's a great comment from the author on those pesky things, reviewers:

"The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism … when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror."

We better not get out of line. Meanwhile, it seems like we couldn't have made a better choice for a book about faith. Here's the Wikipedia summary:

"In the novel, O'Connor revisits her recurring motif of a disaffected young person returning home and the theme of the struggle of the individual to understand Christianity on a purely individualistic basis. O'Connor's hero, Hazel Motes, sneers at communal and social experiences of Christianity, sees the followers of itinerant, Protestant preachers as fools, and sets out to deny Christ as violently as he can."

Sounds like a blast. There's going to be plenty to talk about alongside faith, too: Southern Gothic, O'Connor's influence on Alice Walker, illness and writing are the first things that jump out at me. We should also probably try to take a look at the John Huston film, which sounds superb. As usual we're open to suggestions, so please tell us if there's anything you'd like to talk about in the comments below. In the meantime, the book is also conveniently short, so let's get reading!

As soon as we have news about discounts and giveaways, we'll post below the line ...


Sam Jordison

The GuardianTramp

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