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Holy crap and profit! I think Flannery O'Connor could go 10 rounds with Cormac McCarthy and still end with a draw. Wise Blood is an amazing look at sin, heresy, apostasy and redemption(?). No. Redemption might just be too hopeful for this O'Connor. Wise Blood is an amazing reworking of several of her shorter stories, but where this novel might have ended up as some Frankensteinian monster in lesser hands, Wise Blood pulls it off. It is a monster for sure, but you never should confuse a grotesque Southern Gothic masterpiece with a deformed literary Prometheus. This novel is amazing
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
First off, let me say that I was really very impressed with the book. On the surface, it's basically a freak show of religious nuts, con artists and madmen, with none of the plot lines making too much sense; but when you go beyond the surface you see the different themes -- religious, philosophical, social -- that make this such a deeply brilliant and open-ended work.
However, a couple of things about the narration bothered me. Bronson Pinchot has a very clear and pleasant voice, but I felt almost like he was performing the characters, rather than narrating a book. The biggest problem was that whenever characters speak in a low voice he actually whispers. For anyone who listens to audiobooks while commuting, this makes some phrases almost impossible to hear. Indeed, I had to listen to some passages over and over again before I could make them out.
The other issue I had with his narration is more a matter of taste: he took great care to give the characters different voices, but to me it resulted in over-interpretation. For example, he performs one character in the book (Enoch) as having a permanently stuffy nose, so that he would pronounce "I mean it" as "I bead it". Now, there is no trace of this in the printed book (I checked), and so I feel like the narration added more than I wanted. Like I said, I'm sure many people wouldn't mind this at all, but I like narrators to add the minimum required for me to be able to differentiate speakers, no more.
So, in the bottom line, I would recommend this book, but if, like me, you listen to audiobooks in an environment where there is some outside noise, or you prefer a more subdued narration style, be prepared.
25 of 27 people found this review helpful
Having come to this with some eagerness from a recommendation - or was that an indirect citation - from Donna Tartt, I must confess to being again greatly disappointed with the Southern Gothic genre to which this is attributed as a masterpiece. I previously struggled with William Faulkner and finally managed to get it - enjoying Sanctuary far more than As I Lay Dying but I am beginning to suspect that that is as far as I am going to go with it....I really could not make head or tail of this one - supposedly a comedy of grotesques. Grotesque, yes. Preachers of all sorts, casual prostitutes, panhandlers and low lifes - I can all just about handle, even though they are presented in a rag-bag narrative that I found impossible to follow.....but men (was it a man?) dressed in Gorilla outfits, buckets of lime used to self-inflict blindness and a sudden mid-air cut out of an ending. Where did it come from, where did it go to - I'm clueless. I could just about live with the repeated bashing over the head with the N-word- and would not even attempt to go there in terms of thinking about how the realism might somehow excuse the casual and comprehensive racism of the society - I'm not convinced that there was an ironic distancing...it was just repeated, plain and unpleasant. I know that a lot of time and effort has been spent in habilitating or rehabilitating Southern writers, but for me, in the context period of the 1940's it just doesn't wash. I saw a great production of Killer Joe by Tracey Letts around ten years ago and at that point the smoking gun was pointed squarely at Trailer Trash and I guess that is pretty much where the focus has been in this sort of Gothic writing for the past twenty years. Not uniformly edifying but certainly good enough in parts to warrant and occasional return to the genre. But Flannery O'Connor, for all my good intentions and the hype will probably have seen the last of me.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful