Buying a used car

Excerpt from Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

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This is an excerpt from the book Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.

I just found out that Flannery O’Connor was quite blatantly racist. I don’t think it’s fair to simply say she’s a product of her times (she was alive and writing at the same time as James Baldwin!). I do think her environment, Southern USA, had a huge influence on her beliefs.

Here’s a good article on how racist Flannery O’Connor was from The New Yorker.

When the car was ready the man and the boy stood by to watch him drive it off. He didn’t want anybody watching him because he hadn’t driven a car in four or five years. The man the boy didn’t say anything while he tried to start it. they only stood there, looking in at him. “I wanted this car mostly to be a house for me,” he said to the man. “I ain’t got any place to be.”

“You ain’t took the brake off yet,” the man said.

He took off the brake and the car shot backward because the man had left it in reverse. In a second he got it going forward and he drove off crookedly, past the man and the boy still standing there watching. He kept going forward, thinking nothing and sweating. For a long time he stayed on the street he was on. He had a hard time holding the car in the road. He went past railroad yards for about a half-mile and then warehouses. When he tried to slow the car down, it stopped altogether and then he had to start it again. He went past long blocks of gray houses and then blocks of better, yellow houses. It began to drizzle rain and he turned on the windshield wipers; they made a great clatter like two idiots clapping in church. he went past blocks of white houses, each sitting with an ugly dog face on a square of grass. Finally he went over a viaduct and found the highway.

He began going very fast.

the highway was ragged with filling stations and trailer camps and roadhouses. After a while there were stretches where red gulley dropped off on either side of the road and behind them there were patches of field buttoned together with 666 posts. The sky leaked over all of it and then it began to leak into the car. The head of a string of pigs appeared snout-up over the ditch and he had to screech to a stop and watch the rear of the last pig disappear shaking into the ditch on the other side. He started the car again and went on. He had the feeling that everything he saw was a broken-off piece of some giant blank thing that he had forgotten had happened to him. A black pick-up truck turned off a side road in front of him. On the back of it an iron bed and a chair and table were tied, and on top of them, a crate of barred-rock chickens. the truck when very slowly, with a rumbling sound, and in the middle of the road. Haze started pounding his horn and he had hit it three times before he realized it didn’t make any sound. The crate was stuffed so full of wet barred-rock chickens that the ones facing him had their heads outside the bars. The truck didn’t go any faster and he was forced to drive slowly. The fields stretched sodden on either side until they hit the scrub pines.

The road turned and went down hill and a high embankment appeared on one side with pines standing on it, facing a gray boulder that jutted out of the opposite gully wall. White letters on the boulder said, WOE TO THE BLASPHEMER AND WHOREMONGER! WILL HELL SWALLOW YOU UP? The pick-up truck slowed even more as if it were reading the sign and Haze pounded his empty horn. He beat on it and beat on it but it didn’t make any sound. The pick-up truck went on, bumping the glum barred-rock chickens over the edge of the next hill. Haze’s car was stopped and his eyes were turned toward the two words at the bottom of the sign. They said in smaller letters, “Jesus Saves.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Wise Blood – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Flannery O’Connor’s haunting first novel of faith, false prophets, and redemptive wisdom

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his inborn, desperate fate. He falls under the spell of a blind street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Sabbath Lily. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Motes founds the Church Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with wise blood, who leads him to a mummified holy child and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Motes’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdom gives us one of the most riveting characters in American fiction.

Copyright © 1968 by Flannery O’Connor.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

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