A novel by Flannery O'Connor
This is my old and rather battered copy of Wise Blood, by the American author, Flannery O'Connor.
It's a strange and disturbing story set in the American south, in the years after the second world war.
O'Connor described it as a comedy.
I set myself a lock-down task of illustrating a favourite book, and chose this one, partly because of its strangeness, and partly because it's very visual, and well suited to illustration.
The book has 14 chapters, and I set out to draw one illustration per chapter.
Hazel Motes is on the train to Taulkinham, having returned from the war to find his old family home abandoned.
'Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car.'
On his first day in town, Haze encounters the blind preacher Asa Hawks and his girl.
'The blind man ... began to move forward in a deliberate way, jiggling a tin cup in one hand and tapping a white cane in front of him with the other. Just behind him there came a child, handing out leaflets.
"Help a blind unemployed preacher."'
Enoch Emery had first encountered Haze on the day Haze met the blind preacher. Enoch worked on the gate at the city zoo. Nearby was the city museum, where there was something Enoch was determined to show Haze.
"See theter notice," Enoch said in a church whisper... "it says he was once as tall as you or me. Some A-rabs did it to him in six months."
Asa Hawks' girl, named Sabbath, has decided to seduce Haze, because Asa has told her he's going to move to another town and abandon her. She needs Haze to look after her.
Haze has decided to seduce Sabbath, in order to ruin her and thereby prove to Hawks that he was in earnest when he said he preached the Church without Christ.
They drive out to the country together.
Haze decides it's too hard to seduce her all in one afternoon.
'"Ain't my feet white, though?" she asked raising them slightly.'
Enoch, meanwhile, sitting in front of a truly bizarre washstand mirror in his rented room, is reaching a point of crisis.
'Enoch Emery knew now that his life would never be the same again, because the thing that was going to happen to him had started to happen. He had always known that something was going to happen but he hadn't known what.'
Haze has moved into the same boarding house as Asa Hawks. Obsessed by the blind preacher and his girl, Haze breaks into Hawks' room late one night, where he finds Hawks lying across the bed, drunk.
Haze discovers there is less to Asa Hawks than he'd imagined.
'"Now you can get out," Hawks said in a short thick voice, "Now you can leave me alone."'
Haze has attracted the attention of Onnie Jay Holy, another conman preacher. Onnie - whose real name is Hoover Shoats - can really work the crowd, and wants to join up with Haze. But Haze angrily rejects him.
Next day, Haze discovers that he's been usurped.
'Hoover Shoats was walking about on the sidewalk, striking a few chords on his guitar. "Friends," he called, "I want to innerduce you to the True Prophet here and I want you all to listen to his words because I think they're going to make you happy like they've made me!"'
Possibly the funniest, or weirdest , chapter in the book. Enoch has stolen the shrunken man from the museum. After keeping him hidden in his washstand for a couple of days, he decides to give him to Haze, as the new jesus he's been looking for. He delivers it to Haze's boarding house, wrapped in brown paper, where Sabbath finds it.
She unwraps it, sitting on the edge of the bathtub.
'Two days out of the glass case had not improved the new jesus' condition. One side of his face had been partly mashed in and on the other side, his eyelid had split and a pale dust was seeping out of it.'
Enoch's next act of theft is of the gorilla suit used by some showmen to promote the film 'Gonga!'
Out in the county, beyond the city, he runs about, wearing the suit. After scaring off a young couple, he sits on the rock they vacated, and finds a kind of peace.
'The gorilla ... sat down on the rock ... and stared over the valley at the uneven skyline of the city.'
Haze decides to drive to another town, but not five miles down the highway he hears a siren, and is pulled up by a patrolman. Haze can't produce a license. The patrolman asks him to drive to the top of the next hill in order to see the view, and then to turn the car so it faced the embankment.
'"You'll be able to see better thataway."'
He asks Haze to get out of the car.
'The patrolman got behind the Essex and pushed it over the embankment ... The car landed on its top, with the three wheels that stayed on, spinning ... "Them that don't have a car, don't need a licence," the patrolman said, dusting his hands on his pants.'
Defeated and humiliated by events, Haze does what Hawks had failed to do, and blinds himself with lime.
He continues to live in the boarding house. The landlady, realising that Haze receives an army pension, on account of a piece of shrapnel in his chest, decides she should marry him.
They sit on her porch each day, where he isn't good company.
'He sat on her porch a good part of every afternoon ... You asked him a question in the morning and he might answer it in the afternoon, or he might never.'
'Anyone who saw her from the sidewalk would think she was being courted by a corpse.'
Not long after, he was a corpse.