Being a Southerner and a literary type, I'm reasonably well-versed in Flannery O'Connor, and one of my favorite O'Connor characters has always been Hazel Motes from Wise Blood. Poor old Hazel wants nothing more than to escape from God, but that's complicated by the fact that he's always being mistaken by a preacher. So finally he gives in to the "calling," except he calls his church the "Church of Christ Without Christ." This being an O'Connor story, however, Christ is most definitely going to enter the picture.
In A Very Minor Prophet, James Bernard Frost acknowledges an O'Connor influence with this epigraph, a Motes' quote: "The only way to the truth is through blasphemy." And it's certainly easy to see more than a bit of Hazel Motes in Hynes' dwarf preacher Joseph Patrick Booker, though Booker's project is different. He doesn't want to do without Christ, he just wants to reappropriate him, to wrest him out of the Bush-era Evangelicals' grasp and get rid of the mystical mumbo-jumbo and re-establish Christ as a friend to the freaks, the kind of dude who'd happily hang out with the zinesters and the anarchists and the PBR-swillers, keeping Portland weird. Booker's first follower, and our faithful scribe, is one Bartholomew ("Barth") Flynn, a lapsed Iowa Catholic and current Portland barista whose cynical zine is floundering until Booker's sincerity gives him a whole new subject matter.
On finishing Book I, I'm curious to see where Hynes is going with Barth. Will Booker's sermons (miracle-free though they may be) end up rekindling his religious faith? And will he finally hook up with Mercyx (a great character!), whose tough exterior is harboring a few secrets I won't reveal here.
--I wasn't sure I'd dig the zine elements of the book but they're working for me on the whole. As Barth transforms Booker into a "character" in his zine, it's like we're witnessing the process of creation unfold.
--Can't wait to hear Bananasuit's feminist reading of Mercyx!
"You see, what I want is to start a retro faith, a sort of a time meld between Galilee and the Summer of Love, minus the patchouli."
"...it was inspiring to read things that would never make it into mass-manufactured print."
"...her Chesterfields and Hefeweisen puke mixing with my Stumptown and PBR puke."
And look at Brad Dourif ranting and raving as Hazel Motes in John Huston's film of Wise Blood (please watch on Criterion!):