Good morning! Let me be the first to welcome you to the month of June.
Many people are excited because the month of June marks the first full month of summer. They will all be outside working in the yard or catching a game at the local ballpark. Most of the kids are home from school and vacation season has finally begun. As readers we have an extra reason to be happy for June. This marks the second month of our ‘100 Novel Challenge’ giving us the opportunity to read another of the greatest novels of all time, Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.
Wise Blood was published on May 15, 1952 marking the beginning of a short but powerful writing career. The publishing of the story of Hazel Motes didn’t attract a great deal of positive attention at first. One of the first critics even went as far as to say that it was the “work of insanity”. Another critic wondered “if the struggle to get from one sentence to the next is worthwhile”. Reactions from Flannery’s family were not any better. Regina, Flannery’s mom, fell asleep on page 9. A cousin of hers ordered advance copies to send to all of her friends (the local priests) without having read a word of the book. When she finally received her copy some say she was so upset by what she read that she spent a week in bed and then sent apologies to everyone she had sent a copy to. Another older relative simply sent her a note stating, ‘I do not like your book’.
That first wave of poor reviews was followed by reviews that gave the exact opposite opinion of the book. The New York Herald Tribune Book Review wrote that “Flannery O’Connor, in her first novel, has taken on the difficult subject of religious mania, and succeeds in telling a tale at once delicate and grotesque.” Newsweek called O’Connor “the most naturally gifted of the youngest generation of American novelists”.
These mixed reviews show the complexity of the book we are about to read. If you are one who likes to surface read a book without looking for greater understanding you may finish this read shaking your head wondering what sort of drugs O’Connor put into her body. If you are willing to read for understanding though, you will find a deep and powerful message.
I look forward to another great month of reading with you.
Paper version. I cannot find a Kindle version to link to.