Lisa McInerney is Hazel Motes in Wise Blood

Wise Blood 1
Wise Blood

Lisa McInerney is a sweary writer of contemporary fiction who comes from Galway via Cork. She likes video games, Vincent Cassel, and being on time for things. Her first novel, The Glorious Heresies (published by John Murray 9 April 2015), tracks the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-boom badlands, from 15-year-old drug dealer Ryan, who’s escaping his father’s fists, to Maureen, the accidental murderer, who is back at home at the behest of her gangster son, Jimmy, after a 40-year sojourn. Lisa’s alter ego is Hazel Motes in Wise Blood. Eithne Farry

It’s a disconcerting thing to be a logical writer. It’s put to you as an apostasy. Common sense is for paramedics, farmers and the Famous Five; writers should be impulsive, emotional and drunk. And yet I am logical. Pragmatic. Ever sane. Maybe too sane. It sometimes feels like I’m the only sane person in a world of flakes and maniacs. Why can’t they just SEE? I ask myself. It’s perfectly SIMPLE. And then I kick a wall and hurt my foot.

So if there’s a movie character I feel closest to, it’s Hazel Motes from John Huston’s Wise Blood. Haze – draped over the skinny shoulders of Brad Dourif at his eyeball-popping best – is galvanised by logic. He’s so resolutely, unflinchingly sane that it’s driven him completely mad.

Haze, bent out of shape by an unspecified war wound and memories of his fire-and-brimstone preacher grandfather, comes home to Tennessee intent on spreading heresy. Made bilious by the milky-eyed convictions held by his Christian brethren, he abhors religion and yet is preoccupied with it, obsessed with theology in the way a child is obsessed with his playmate’s trinkets, focused on ripping to shreds the comforts of faith. Naturally, his extreme sincerity is ignored by the masses, seized on by the feeble-minded, exploited by the deceitful and upstaged by his hat, driving Haze into paroxysms of logic. It’s hardly a wonder it all ends in (burning) tears.

An anti-preacher losing the run of himself because no one around him will listen to reason resonates with me, a lapsed Irish Catholic and, unfortunately, rational novelist. My heart pangs for Haze because I know where the lad is coming from: a place of bitter incredulousness, where sometimes you’re so puffed up with sound philosophies that you can’t quite get them past your teeth except in a great big rancorous rush. Sanity’s a maddening thing in a world as complex as ours. Also, I wouldn’t mind young Dourif’s bone structure. Or such a mesmerising hat.

Lisa McInerney