After reading just a few pages of this book I kept thinking to myself Hazel Motes is doomed.
First of all he is the lead character in a Flannery O'Connor novel. The only thing that could be worst is if he were the lead character in a [a:Jim Thompson|7621|Jim Thompson|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1360741132p2/7621.jpg] novel. The poor bastard hasn't got a chance. For one thing he's got the wrong look to him. "His black hat sat on his head with a careful, placed expression on his face had a fragile look as if it might have been broken and stuck together again, or like a gun no one knows is loaded."
Haze decides that he is an atheist and to prove he is irreligious he sleeps with loose women. Not with any passion or conviction, but with the hope that he can finally reduce the pull of the church on his soul. Much to his irritation people take him for a preacher. People see piety in his hat and his jacket. He is quiet and odd, and people can almost smell the religious conviction boiling beneath the surface of his skin.
He starts his own religion I mean anti-religion. The church Without Christ. He preaches in the street from the bumper of his Essex car. He decides to seduce a fifteen year old girl, Sabbath Hawks daughter of a "blind" preacher, to prove again to himself what a bad, bad boy he is, but recoils from the prospect when he discovers she is a nymphomaniac.
A local con man, Hoover Shoats, feels that Haze is really mucking up the whole point of starting a new religion, making money
, and first attempts to join up with Motes, but when he is rebuffed finds a Haze look-alike right down to the car he drives. Shoats starts up his own campaign to save the souls of the needy, and extract a few bills in the process. Haze is incensed and takes drastic action to eliminate the competition. "If you don't hunt it down and kill it, it'll hunt you down and kill you."
Haze's friend acquaintance, Enoch Emery believes he is guided by a spiritual power of his blood. "He had wise blood like his daddy.
Enoch is convinced that Haze needs a new Jesus to make his religion complete. He steals a desiccated mummy from where he works, and gives it to Haze. Haze is of course disgusted by the creature and tears it to shreds. Enoch, a few cards short of a full deck, missed the point that it was the Church WITHOUT
When Haze discovers that Preacher Asa Hawks faked his own blindness I could swear I heard the last snaps of the ropes holding Motes's mind in place come loose. "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."
Motes felt the loss of the "blind" preacher acutely, and decided there was only one recourse for him to achieve a new awareness. He becomes a martyr. He blinds himself with lye. He puts glass and rocks in his shoes and wraps barbed wire around his chest. As it turns out Haze, as suspected, is not an atheist, but actually has more in common with the most fanatical of the religious ranks, the Flagellants than he does with atheism.
This is a fast read, with more humor than what I expressed in this review. O'Connor pokes a stick at the twisted black parts of our minds, and lets them loose in her fiction. Like everything I've read by her I came away from the experience a little queasy, my convictions stirred up, and feeling the overpowering urge to go hug a puppy.
Like I said at the beginning it wasn't as if Hazel Motes had much of chance. He thrashed away at life trying desperately to escape, trying to see his way clear to a new existence, a higher calling, and freer life. He took away his vision, but to Haze, by doing so, he opened up more possibilities. "Do you think, Mr. Motes," his landlady asked hoarsely, "that when you're dead you're blind?"
"I hope so," he said after a minute.
"Why?" she asked, staring at him.
After a while he said, "If there's no bottom in your eyes, they hold more."