This is the first contact, as it were, that I've had with the works of Flannery O'Connor. I believe the Southern Gothic genre, of which this is a quintessential example, is one that is uniquely linked to the culture and geography of its country of origin... which may serve to explain why I (a non-American) had never heard of this title until I came across it on Goodreads. (I suspect that, internationally, lists of "classic" English language novels tend to be biased against American literature in favour of British writers... but I digress.)
Anyway, I've heard Wise Blood described as a comic novel - but if you approach it anticipating a barrel of laughs, you'll probably be sorely disappointed. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind; it hasn't necessarily failed as a humourous work. The thing is, the humour here is in the uneasy semi-reality of the scenes, with the characters doing outrageous things that you could almost imagine someone doing in real life, although the very thought of it remains deeply unnerving. Wise Blood is chockfull of genuinely weird stuff that strays to the farthest end of dark comedy. If it causes any laughter at all I can only imagine that it manifests very occasionally, and primarily in nervous, slightly horrified little giggles.
Beyond that, if I'm honest, I scarcely know what to think about it. In that case, you may wonder, why bother to attempt to review it at all? Well, there aren't many books that leave me as bewildered as Wise Blood did. Generally speaking, the books I've read can be broadly categorized into two distinct categories - Books I Liked or Books I Didn't Like. My bewilderment at this book belongs to a unique category of its own; I rarely read a book that I think I like, though I find the memory of it vaguely unsettling.
It's a showcase of the dark side of religion, an exhibition of individuals for which religion and penitence act as a conduit for madness. Basically it's just fantastically bleak and now, having given it 3.5 stars, I might go off and stare at a wall for a moment to clear my mind.