Tell me a bit about Walker Percy's fiction/non-fiction

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I'd never really given him a chance (started Moviegoer a while back and couldn't get into it) until I got into Thanatos Syndrome (which, besides the tie-up, was great). Now I'd like some more. A friend has told me that Love in the Ruins should be my next one.


Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 20:18 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm a fan but only of the first two, The Moviegoer and The Last Gentleman, and parts of Message In The Bottle. To me he seemed to keep rewriting variations of the same book and the formula got stale after a while- the writing didn't seem to have the same sparkle while the religious element grew a little heavy-handed and wasn't as well integrated.

k/l (Ken L), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 20:49 (fourteen years ago) link

Interesting. I didn't catch any overt religious dogma in Thanatos. Maybe I should give Moviegoer another go; I hear that his essays aren't bad, either.

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 20:54 (fourteen years ago) link

Message is a collection of some papers on linguistics he wrote that are kind of interesting. He was extremely interested in Helen Keller and her Eureka moment when she understood what language was- no doubt because his only daughter was deaf, but also because one of his big subjects was a search for meaning.

See also the well-written and informative biography Pilgrim In The Ruins. As can be guessed from his work, suicide ran in the family, but you might not know that it was on both sides. You will also understand his relationship with two very different Southern States, Louisiana and Mississippi.

More random factoids from the bio:
He had the same psychoanalyst as Alfred Kazin, Janet Mackenzie Rioch.
The German translator of The Moviegoer was Peter Handke.

k/l (Ken L), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 21:06 (fourteen years ago) link

hmm, maybe a biography would be a good place to start.

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 23:31 (fourteen years ago) link

I need to reread his novels — I read them 15-20 years ago and they were breathtaking, the kind of books I would finish and then just sit for a couple of hours and ponder.

Rock Hardy (Rock Hardy), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 23:39 (fourteen years ago) link

His style (in Thanatos) took me by surprise - strikes me as someone who wasn't a compelte bibliophile but was drawn toward writing, so the style is kind of playful. The tics have been great, and the introduction of the rising action was perfect (when he enters his house and there is this manic scene going on). Once the pace picks up, Percy does an amazing job keeping the pace moving.

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 23:46 (fourteen years ago) link

This is a very thorough internet resource on the man.

In addition to 'The Moviegoer' I think 'Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book' is really good and funny.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Wednesday, 22 June 2005 07:01 (fourteen years ago) link

read the bio the life you lose might be y r own, im doing an extended religous paper on the movie goer for the book, but it might be to spec.

anthony easton (anthony), Thursday, 23 June 2005 08:22 (fourteen years ago) link

It was David Thomson who led the Nipper and me to The Moviegoer. For it is a book about movie, and dream, and the world between, or beyond, them.

I started it, and will finish it one day.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 June 2005 09:24 (fourteen years ago) link

There is a very funny bit in Lost In The Cosmos where John Calvin appears on the set of Donahue, and Phil says something like: Oh, I get it, you're here for that Steve Allen show, Great Conversations, right?

k/l (Ken L), Thursday, 23 June 2005 12:44 (fourteen years ago) link

Waaah, I can't find my copy of The Moviegoer!

Rock Hardy (Rock Hardy), Thursday, 23 June 2005 14:00 (fourteen years ago) link

Lost in the Cosmos also came highly recommended.

OK, probably gonna hit Strand today to find this biography. If they don't have that, Love in the Ruins, LitCosmos, or anything else that catches my fancy.

Thx for the recs.

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Thursday, 23 June 2005 15:33 (fourteen years ago) link

Was I the first one to mention the bio? If so, I would like to say- read the novels first and then read the bio, otherwise you will be too busy second-guessing the novels with all the behind-the-scenes information you have, instead of enjoying them.

k/l (Ken L), Thursday, 23 June 2005 16:54 (fourteen years ago) link

understandable comment k/l, but i think i'm still gonna go ahead and read it first. behind the scenes info never hurt nobody.

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Friday, 24 June 2005 01:13 (fourteen years ago) link

three years pass...

I just finished The Moviegoer and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It's certainly good, I'm just not sure how good. It definitely gives the reader a glimpse into another world, it's just that it's a rather small, restricted glimpse. I kept feeling like I was waiting for the preliminaries to be over and the 'real' action of the book to kick in, almost to the very end. I still feel as if I don't know who Binx Bolling (or anyone, really, save, Aunt Emily) is...this might be one that takes two reads to really see the book's true merits.

G00blar, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 16:07 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

"As John Cheever said, the main emotion of the adult Northeastern American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment.

Work is disappointing. In spite of all the talk about making work more creative and self-fulfilling, most people hate their jobs, and with good reason. Most work in modern technological societies is intolerably dull and repetitive.

Marriage and family life are disappointing. Even among defenders of traditional family values, e.g., Christians and Jews, a certain dreariness must be inferred, if only from the average time of TV viewing. Dreary as TV is, it is evidently not as dreary as Mom talking to Dad or the kids talking to either.

School is disappointing. If science is exciting and art is exhilarating, the schools and universities have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of rendering both dull. As every scientist and poet knows, one discovers both vocations in spite of, not because of, school. It takes years to recover from the stupor of being taught Shakespeare in English Lit and Wheatstone's bridge in Physics.

Politics is disappointing. Most young people turn their backs on politics, not because of the lack of excitement of politics as it is practiced, but because of the shallowness, venality, and image-making as these are perceived through the media--one of the technology's greatest achievements.

The churches are disappointing, even for most believers. If Christ brings us new life, it is all the more remarkable that the church, the bearer of this good news, should be among the most dispirited institutions of the age. The alternatives to the institutional churches are even more grossly disappointing, from TV evangelists with their blown-dry hairdos to California cults led by prosperous gurus ignored in India but embraced in La Jolla.

Social life is disappointing. The very franticness of attempts to reestablish community and festival, by partying, by groups, by club, by touristy Mardi Gras, is the best evidence of the loss of true community and festival and of the loneliness of self, stranded as it is as an unspeakable consciousness in a world from which it perceives itself as somehow estranged, stranded even within its own body, with which it sees no clear connection.

But there remains the one unquestioned benefit of science: the longer and healthier life made possible by modern medicine, the shorter work-hours made possible by technology, hence what is perceived as the one certain reward of dreary life of home and the marketplace: recreation.

Recreation and good physical health appear to be the only ambivalent benefits of the technological revolution."

ian, Tuesday, 15 December 2009 17:44 (ten years ago) link

five years pass...
two years pass...

GOING TO Correction: May 14, 2006, Sunday "Going to Literary New York," an article on Page 12 of the Travel section today, refers erroneously to Central Park. No part of the park has ever been known as the Great Meadow; the term was used by Walker Percy in his novel "The Last Gentleman." (The park does include the Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn.)

When I Get To The Borad (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 August 2017 13:15 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

The Last Gentleman -- yes?

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 20 May 2019 18:49 (ten months ago) link


Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 20 May 2019 18:54 (ten months ago) link

I can’t believe I never posted to this thread. Love this dude.

El Tomboto, Monday, 20 May 2019 18:57 (ten months ago) link

Seem to recall you posting to another thread about him.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 20 May 2019 19:00 (ten months ago) link

Also, looks like Alfred took a decade to get around to reading this one: Winter Is Here and the Time Is Right For A "Whatchoo Reading?" Thread

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 20 May 2019 19:06 (ten months ago) link

I'm closer -- I'm in the library, the original hardcover edition beside me.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 20 May 2019 19:08 (ten months ago) link

Why don’t you just flip a coin? Heads you read it now, tails you wait another decade.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 20 May 2019 19:18 (ten months ago) link

What happened? Really would love to hear your opinion of that book, a personal favorite. Seems like you have some resistance to reading it for some reason.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:04 (ten months ago) link

I lost interest in him after struggling thru Love After the Ruins.

I did check The Last Gentleman out btw

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:06 (ten months ago) link

IN the Ruins obv

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:06 (ten months ago) link

So, as to why I put “Mexican Divorce” at number one:

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:07 (ten months ago) link

Ha, trying to post to two threads at once in Zing doesn't work too well.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:08 (ten months ago) link

Came to say that one is bad, written when he was a cranky older dude. The Last Gentleman is of a piece with The Moviegoer. Some people seem to have a strong preference for one over the other, but both of them much better than his later novels.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:11 (ten months ago) link

A lot of significant action does take place in New Mexico, however, and two of the most important characters are divorced.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 01:32 (ten months ago) link

In college, I met this girl who was stuck in a paper on Percy: when she finished it, she could graduate, so... Meanwhile, I went home for the summer, read The Moviegoer, slipped into the cadence x density, loved it, but somehow one was enough. Although he also figures on my Essential Southern Reading List via Confederacy of Dunces, which he was more or less forced to discover when the suicided author's mother badgered him into looking at the manuscript. Initial reaction was something like, "I read on, with the sinking feeling that it was too good to dismiss."

dow, Tuesday, 21 May 2019 13:57 (ten months ago) link

The beginning of your post is itself like something out of a Walker Percy novel.

Careless Love Battery (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:43 (ten months ago) link

I made the grisly mistake yesterday afternoon of reading Percy's 1980 column on abortion.

I checked out The Last Gentleman anyway.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 21 May 2019 14:44 (ten months ago) link

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