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I was going through my Netflix queue the other day and noticed I had the Wise Blood movie there. I thought, "Why do I have this here, I didn't even really like the book?" and removed it. I suppose I should revisit the book some time and try to figure out what it is I'm missing. In regard to O'Connor and Percy and my disinclination to enjoy their works, it is probably more about style than content. I tend to lean towards sprawling 500+ page novels with thinner ones usually not doing it for me. I'm surprised you did not recognize Brad Dourif from the part he played in the Peter Jackson LOTR movies, Mac! I think he was only in the second one.

I read quite a bit of Alice Thomas Ellis a few years ago. I think that Fairy Tale was my favorite.


I studied Wise Blood with my class years ago - I taught it most years between 1991-1995. That's the last time I read it. I have a strong memory of talking about the function of the car - O'Connor does build up to the significance of the car with lots of references to it (the kind you notice if you are a teacher pointing it out to a class). Its a kind of coffin, body of this death figure, as I recall

There's definitely a lot emphasis on the car. Haze says at least twice I think that if you have a good car you don't need to worry about anything, or something along those lines. It clearly is an aspect of his nihilistic salvation vision. I hadn't thought of the coffin angle, though.

I never would have connected Dourif with Wormtongue, Stu.

Your opinion of Fairy Tale may be a minority one, Janet. I don't see it mentioned as often as her other work, for instance in Sally's piece.

ATE's obituary in the Telegraph:


Brad Dourif sort of plays all of his characters the same way, which makes me wonder what he is like in "real life"?




I really must read "Wise Blood" and more of O'Connor anyway.

Definitely worth it. I think familiarity has caused a lot of us to lose sight of just how weird it is (Wise Blood I mean).

By the way, here's something Rob G sent me a week or two ago that I had meant to include in this post and forgot to. It's an article largely about Wise Blood, book and film:


I've read two or three of Alice Thomas Ellis's novels, The 27th Kingdom being the only one that I somewhat remember. The "magical" element in them didn't work for me. But I do like the "Home Life" columns she wrote for the Spectator, which are collected in four volumes, as well as the columns she wrote for The Oldie magazine, which are in God Has Not Changed.

The Home Life pieces are supposed to be pretty funny. Some years ago there was an mail-order book company called Common Reader (I think) which praised them a lot, as well as her novels. I think Amazon killed them.

Common Reader, that is, not ATE's novels.

Of Alice Thomas' Ellis' novels, I enjoyed The Birds of the Air very much - it describes Chelsea in the 1950s, and it is very close to the milieu in which I grew up. I like a couple of the other early ones. I read them when they were coming out, in the early 1980s, and I was a Spectator reader at the time so I read her back column.

After a while, I couldn't say when, she very definitely palled on me. Maybe I was following her a bit too closely, but she seemd to be re-writing versions of the same novel over and over. The Spectator columns became very repetitive, with constant whinging about the conservative government of the time (Mrs T) and 'the new mass'. I lived in London in those days, and there was a certain kind of person who went to the Brompton Oratory or other places where they had the Old Mass (very rare in those days) or at least the new mass in Latin. There were snobby, pompous people who moaned on and on about 'I don't like the new mass'. In the end, Alice in the Spectator and the Catholic Herald just sounded like those people, to me. I wasn't sorry when she lost her job first at the Spec, and later at the Catholic Herald. She did just seem to become a stuck record. Later she wrote the same kinds of columns for the Oldie.

At the time I had no sympathy whatsoever for this crime of beginning to sound like a stuck record after writing a weekly column in a magazine for several years. Having just torn my hair out after writing my second fortnightly column for a magazine, I'm beginning to feel some sympathy. Its very hard work thinking of something to say every two weeks. And I've only done two!

I would still say though, that really, Alice had no theology and not much depth. There simply wasn't any Catholic intellectual culture in England at that time for her to draw on.

Marianne I agree the magic in the later books is appalling - I read one where someone turns into a seal and never touched anything written by ATE ever again.

Grumpy, I do see what you mean about her sounding like a "stuck record" in her columns. I felt that a way a bit myself several years ago, but then I went back and read some here and there a few months ago, and appreciated the times when she made me laugh out loud. Maybe she needs to be taken in small doses.

Yes I do think that reading it every week was just too much

The magic in Fairy Tale is appalling, and meant to be, or certainly seemed that way to me.

Serpent on the Rock is enjoyable but it is somewhat as you say, Grumpy--a lot of griping but not a great deal of depth.

I havent read Fairy Tale. I cant remember one by that name

It involves a woman having a baby fathered by a fairy. Not a cute little sprite but an old-school, undomesticated, probably pre-Christian fairy.

gosh,no I didn't read that one. The last one or two I read were largely just women sitting in the kitchen having Alice Thomas Ellis conversations. The one with the seals was the last straw

I expect I would have a greater tolerance than you for a story about someone turning into a seal. I'm wondering if it had something to do with the "selkie" legends. There's a spooky old ballad about one--a creature who's sometimes a seal and sometimes human. A were-seal, as it were.

Have you ever seen The Secret of Roan Inish?


I think so but I don't remember it.

Roan Inish is a very good movie, pretty sure I have the DVD at home. Whatever happened to John Sayles? I used to wait with bated breath for each release...now I have to go look him up on wikipedia.

I've read only two Alice Thomas Ellis books, The Sin Eater and The Inn at the Edge of the World. I liked the latter much better, although I don't remember it all that well (it's probably been 15 years). As it's a Christmas-themed novel, maybe I'll try to re-read it this winter.

Speaking of books, here are a couple things that may be of interest. The new Mark Helprin novel, Paris in the Present Tense, comes out on Tuesday. I just re-read his Freddy and Fredericka (which I liked better the second time) so I was happy to hear about this new one.

Also, what I think is the first major UK release of Wendell Berry's works has been published, a large collection of essays titled The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry. One of the interesting things about it is that it's edited by Paul Kingsnorth, an English "rogue" ecologist and novelist who has just had a collection of essays come out over here called Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist. A few years back he wrote a very good "crunchy cons" type book about the loss of the local in the UK, Real England.

Finally, Ronald Blythe has just published his 11th, and final, installment in the "Wormingford" series, Forever Wormingford. Sad to see this end, but of course the man is 95, so it had to come to a close someday!

11th! I thought there were four or five at most.

I didn't realize there were that many either until I counted the ones I have (6) and the ones I don't. I obviously missed a few along the way. It appears that there's been one about every two/three years since 1997.

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