This is the book club thread
More precisely, the one week late book club thread.
We were reading Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood
, and we were supposed to discuss it last week. I offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies, and I hope someone else read the novel too. I got sick and busy and didnt get a chance to listen to the lectures and frankly didnt quite know what to make of it.
About 50 pages into the novel I just kept thinking: who would want to write about these people. That feeling grew stronger as I went on. My only exposure to O'Conner had been to the short stories from a good man is hard to find and they read the same way to me, but over 20 pages it seems more like a beautiful sketch of something repellent. At length as was the case here, I found it challenging.
My edition has a collection of her letters in the back. As I was leafing through not writing anything about Wise Blood
I noticed that the first letters (some of which were written on my block in New York, which is fun) are about the sale, or lack of sale of this novel. In writing to a potential publisher she says "The finished book, though I hope less angular, will be just as odd if not odder then the nine chapters you have now." To a friend she writes "I learned that nobody at [the publishing firm] liked the 108 pages but the ladies there particular had thought it unpleasant (which pleased me)."
I find myself in the place of the none-too-bright publishers, not sure what to make of this novel
I didnít read Hungerfords lectures until after I had read the book, and now slightly regret it. Hungerford is proposing, in a slightly maddening professorial way of just offering, three ways of getting a handle on this novel, O'Connor's own preferred religious interpretation, the novel as an artistic expression of southern culture (on the cusp of its critical examination and challenge) and as a product of a novelist raised in the New Criticism.
The idea of the writer whose work is shaped by and for the New Criticism rings true to me. With persistent prodding I can see the formal beauty, of the work. But I still think, what was O'Connor's point in writing about these creations. If I understand correctly, she labored constantly for five years on this book, writing and rewriting.
So if we think that each and every word counts, what is she trying to do here. In her authors note O'Connor says "That belief in Christ is to some a matter of life and death has been a stumbling block for readers who would prefer to think it a matter of no great consequence. For them, Hazel Motes's integrity lies in his trying with such vigor to get rid of the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of his mind. For the author, Hazel's integrity lies in his not being able to do so. " If I thought all day I would not come up with "Integrity" to describe Hazel Motes. But is O'Connor saying that once infected with the Christ idea, no amount of sin will erase it?
I have one very specific question to my fellow readers: what was the point of the chapter on the train and the confrontations with the porter? On posing the question it occurs to me that Hazel is calling the porter home? Another of the images of being drawn home?
I am eager to hear what everyone (anyone) else thought of it.