Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor
What is God, really? And what is a jesus, and how is that different from Jesus, and how is that different from true? These are the questions that set Wise Blood spinning.
O’Connor sets up a landscape in which every person practices their own private kind of religion. One preaches Jesus like a huckster, while another preaches the lack of a god as fervently as any zealot. One character lives by a warped physical pleasure code, and one has “wise blood,” or a bunch of instincts that guide him through his daily actions. All of it is dusted over with the heat and fatigue and dilapidation of a small poor American town in summer.
It’s a novel full of lost people, and the motivations that propel them onward. O’Connor doesn’t provide a lot of answers. Instead, she vivisects her characters to reveal emptinesses, longings, and burning questions. All of her characters know things, feel they must do things, but they can’t explain why.
We often can’t explain why we do what we do, or why some things feel so important to us while others fade away. Is God, or another spirit, speaking to us? Is it an unalterable truth? Is it a mortal compulsion? Is there a difference? And will we ever know?
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.