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1. The Moviegoer
2. Love in the Ruins
3. The Second Coming: A Novel
4. The Last Gentleman: A Novel
5. Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
6. The Message in the Bottle: How
7. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help
8. Conversations with Walker Percy
9. Walker Percy Remembered: A Portrait
10. Walker Percy: An American Search
11. Lancelot
12. Lancelot: A Novel
13. The Correspondence of Shelby Foote
14. The Art of Walker Percy: Stratagems
15. Lost In the Cosmos
16. Walker Percy's Sacramental Landscapes:
17. The Thanatos Syndrome: A Novel
18. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery
19. Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections
20. The Last Physician: Walker Percy

1. The Moviegoer
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 241 Pages (1998-04-14)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375701966
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Winner of the 1961 National Book Award

The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern
literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.

The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with
the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he
cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies
himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the
"treasurable moments" absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks
on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and
sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans' French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich
in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic.Amazon.com Review
This elegantly written account of a young man's search forsigns of purpose in the universe is one of the great existential textsof the postwar era and is really funny besides. Binx Bolling,inveterate cinemaphile, contemplative rake and man of the periphery,tries hedonism and tries doing the right thing, but ultimately findsredemption (or at least the prospect of it) by taking a leap of faithand quite literally embracing what only seems irrational. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (112)

5-0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
SPOILER ALERT. Do not read this review until after you have finished the book and considered it for yourself.

If fifteen people read and reviewed The Moviegoer, they could create fifteen different descriptions of it. If one person read it a year later, he could write a completely different review of it from the one he wrote the year before. It all depends on what is emphasized, the southernness, New Orleans, the story of ancestries, the blacks and whites or the relationship of the story to Kierkegard. There are so many aspects of the novel to consider.
This is a funny book, an endearing book. The writing is gasp inducing gorgeous.
This is a book of its time, post Becket, the existentialists, and the absurdists. It follows a half century of the realization of the great scale of the horror man is capable of perpetrating on his fellow men. Salinger has been writing about teenage angst. Yet, while it is so relevant to the late nineteen fifties, Binx's story finds resonance to this day.
It isfunny to read how Binx plots to make his secretary fall in love with him. The descriptions of movies and their use to him and how he makes a movie house more real are wonderful. Look on page 216 for a line that gives the reader pause on the subject of the title.
Binx's elaborate descriptions of the components of his search make up a good portion of the story. Yet every time he is with Aunt Emily, he either can't talk about it or it seems to be smaller in importance. And in the face of Aunt Emily's big rant at him in part five, he understands that he is finished with his search.
His search, he tells us, is to forestall the everydayness; in his head he criticizes other people who are satisfied with ordinary lives. All the while he is thinking and working out the details of his search, he is carrying out normal activity and conversation, and no one having discourse with him, knows about his interior life. The only one who knows it all is his fellow mentally discomfited, Kate. In the end, he will accept everydayness as he takes care of Kate.
It is a great theme in a lot of literature, the concept of coming home. Ulysses, The Wizard of Oz, Pippin, the musical, where he realizes he is not extraordinary and will settle as man, woman, child in an every day existence, and Candide, who after his upsetting adventures will join with his love and just make his garden grow. And so it is here. The epilogue may be one of the most gorgeous things I have ever read. Tender, quiet, accepting; Kate and Binx will make it, I believe.
The book is described as an existential novel. What kind of existential protagonist loves his job, loves making money, and goes to great lengths to protect his clients' accounts? What kind of existential character loves others, his half brother, Lonnie and Aunt Emily? He even has a kind of love for minor characters like Mr. Kinsella and the ladies in ticket booths. And Kate and Binx have a kind of love for each other.
This book doesn't seem to be an existential novel as much as a rebuke to the existentialists. Walker Percy seems to be saying to them, "Come off it. Get with the program. It's enough already."Aunt Emily as she scolds Binx in Part Five represents this.
To discuss this book and leave out Aunt Emily is to forget someone central to it all. For this reader she is most important of all for Binx. It is his love of her, he even enjoys it when she scolds him, that keeps him from going off the deep end. And her brilliantly written big rebuke at the end is what saves him from himself. One is reminded of the biblical verse that says now I am become a man and must put away childish things.
One is reminded of another biblical verse when the book is over. And now abideth faith, hope and charity (love) but the greatest of these is charity.
Lonnie's Faith is pure and perfect. The scenes between Lonnie and Binx are utterly exquisite. Binx couldn't care less about religion, yet his love of Lonnie makes him happy and interested as Lonnie describes his faith to him. And when Lonnie tells Binx he is taking his communion for Binx, that is a spectacular moment.
Hope? Is there hope for Binx? I think so and I think Walker Percy thinks so, too.
And, as has already been noted, love runs throughout the novel.
I don't think this is an existential novel. I think it is a Christian Morality Tale.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tasted It Like Okra
The Moviegoer is a novel about an angst-filled young man, who is on the verge of turning 30. Like The Rum Diary : A Novel, Wolf: A False Memoir, and The Sun Also Rises, it is a novel that focuses on a protagonist who is floundering, lost in life, searching for meaning.

The Moviegoer's protagonist is Binx Bolling, a stock broker whom lives in the New Orleans' suburb of Gentilly.

This, Percy's first novel, is an existential tract- a descendant of the work of Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marcel. The Moviegoer brought existentialism across the Atlantic, and gave it an American, southern charm.

While The Moviegoer is a weighty philosophical text, it is ironically also a celebration of the novel form (for in a Wittgenstein-like conclusion, Percy- the essayist and philosopher- in writing The Moviegoer turned to the novel to espouse his views). Percy had reached the limits of where the elusive and technocratic language of philosophy could take him. In this way, The Moviegoer is a proclamation that it is the novel, art rather than science, which is immortal. Only art could take Percy's ideas to a place philosophy could not.

And in The Moviegoer, Percy makes his reader wonder why it took the author so long to adopt a form in which he displays the genius of a master craftsman. Like in the passage where Binx describes his insomniac father as, "blundering through the patio furniture, the Junior Jets and the Lone Ranger pup tents, dragging his Saskatchewan sleeping bag like the corpse of a dead hope." Or like when Percy evokes the sad majesty of a city evening: "Station wagons and Greyhounds and diesel rigs rumble toward the Gulf Coast, their fabulous tail-lights glowing like rubies in the darkening east."

Percy's evocation of the evening hour reminded me of walking the streets of Amsterdam, when the inhabitants of the tall apartments along the "Gentlemen's Canal" have yet to draw their apartment's curtains, and light pours out of their apartment and reflects on the old streets and the dark surface of the canal. That brief moment of time when the day teeters on the edge of total darkness, and radiates with an autumnal brilliance.

At its core, Percy's prose is also inescapably southern. Unlike William Faulkner's south, though, Percy's south is more localized. "Yet it was here in the Tivoli that I first discovered place and time, tasted it like okra." Here Percy serves up a characteristic synesthesia, blending in his own marvelous way- abstract philosophy with grimy, tasty, tangible Creole food. Faulkner's south is the mystical "Yoknapatawpha County", which is southern, but non-specific; Percy presents a New Orleans we all know and can touch and taste.

Binx Bolling is an existential wanderer, alienated from the herds. It is in the herds that Binx sees the manifestation of humanity's worst sins: boredom. For Binx, worse than death is a certain death-in-life, wherein people speak like mindless "automatons", repeating rather than choosing their words. To the soul-searcher philosopher, such people locked in "everydayness" are worse than dead, for it is "everydayness" that mocks the moviegoer.

Binx finds the world romantic, entrancing, teeming. But everydayness, repetition and routine, pull Binx down into a vortex of "malaise". As a seer, though, Binx is able to intermittently jump out of the vortex to contemplate "the strange fact of one's own invincible apathy". Binx despises the clueless and willfully blind, all of whom have succumbed to Binx's sworn enemy of everydayness. The death-in-life of the herd tortures Binx, but it is ultimately through this awareness- tortuous as it may be- that Binx finds his only chance at flight to a better, more complete place.

Binx is the anti-hero Percy had previously tried to anoint indirectly through his philosophy's central ideas. That is- Binx is the moviegoer. A moviegoer is someone like Binx, who is apolitical, agnostic, despises everydayness, embraces pain and disaster as a way out of malaise, loves movies and art because they are unpredictable and new life forms. Anything new and beyond expectation is to Binx life-giving.

Finally, Binx is a disciple of Socrates, Jesus, and Buddha. "There is only one thing I can do: listen to people, see how they stick themselves into the world..." The only recourse for the existentialist is to stare in fascination at the world. To realize with each thing that they learn, the body of what they don't know only grows and grows.

The existentialist (i.e. the moviegoer) stands removed from and in awe of moments that shock the routine of everydayness. From this vantage point, the moviegoer watches and questions.

And the moviegoer admires above all the moviemaker, whom bravely is able to escape the rat race- and evoke the world in all its beauty.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Breakdown of the Aesthetic Sphere -- or Something Like That
I started "The Moviegoer" twice before.However, I never got more than 50 pages into the story, since nothing really happens.I recently finished the book while on a holiday.I can now attest:nothing really happens -- at least nothing that adds up to a story with characters who change and grow in clearly explicable ways.

Maybe that's fitting, as the narrator is an alienated, 29-year old stockbroker.Adrift in life and hyper-self-conscious, he sees through everything and everyone, including himself.He hides in social roles -- businessman, nephew, boyfriend -- and he lives for the distractions of seduction, money-making and movie-going.In the end, he opts for no particular reason to marry his suicidal cousin in what amounts to an act of faith that may or may not be a turning point in his life.It's hard to know whether to pity him or admire his self-transparency.

"The Moviegoer" has great writing and a few laugh-out-loud scenes -- Walker Percy wielded words like a surgeon wielding a scalpel.However, the book has the air of an academic exercise, and definitely needs footnotes to explain the Kierkegaardian notions driving the plot.Or should I say "plot"?

2-0 out of 5 stars I Don't Get it
Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see what the fuss is about.This book is almost readable and you have to read through pages and pages of dullness to get to the few tidbits that have value.Maybe in 1961~ this book was unique and offered a fresh perspective on life, but it doesn't stand the test of time.Not for me anyway.You should have to read 220 pages before getting to the meaning.I'm not sure how this was published and I'm not sure why it won book awards.Just because something is "deep" doesn't mean its good or has value.

1-0 out of 5 stars Standards of Excellence clearly change over time...
What a let down.

Having trudged through 100 pages of The Moviegoer, I finally laid it down for good.How did such an uninteresting story garner a book award of any kind?Perhaps existential angst and plotless storytelling were trendy in the 50's?

There were a couple shining moments in the first 100 pages of The Moviegoer that allowed me to hang on as long as I did - namely, the discussion of "The Search", and the belated introduction of Kate.But these plot-savers - supposedly integral to the story - were treated like every other inconsequential character and moment in the book.They are barely touched on, and seem to be an afterthought.

I'm a philosopher and love existentialism, so one would think this type of book would be right up my alley.Well, an author can lose even a loaded audience if there's no plot and the characters aren't relatable.I could not connect to Binx Boling (except the one or two pages when he describes the Search), nor any other character in this book.Seems to me that a sense of connection to the characters is vital to a novel if you've thrown plot out the window.Hell - Boling really doesn't do much movie-going in the first 100 pages, either!The damn book is called The Moviegoer, but movies rarely make a dent.

Easily one of the most overrated books of the 20th century. ... Read more

2. Love in the Ruins
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 416 Pages (1999-09-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$5.51
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312243111
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Dr. Tom More has created a stethoscope of the human spirit. With it, he embarks on an unforgettable odyssey to cure mankind's spiritual flu. This novel confronts both the value of life and its susceptibility to chance and ruin.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars a BAD CATHOLIC near the end of the world
Walker PERCY is a great New Orleans whiter. He is the one who finally got JOHN KENNEDY TOOLE's A confederacy of dunces published after being rejected many times.

5-0 out of 5 stars An all-time favorite
Like a good doctor, Percy distracts you with charm or by saying something funny and then sticks you with a shot of the truth while you're off-guard. There are a lot of truths in this zany book that features a lot of Percy's wry humor, perhaps the most important being that the hypersexualization of our society is the product (or perhaps cause) of the deadening of our souls.You'll like the protaganist, Dr. Tom More, enough to want to read the sequel "The Thanatos Syndrome."Finally, if you Google "Ralph Wood Love in the Ruins" you'll find an English professor's insightful notes on this book.They draw out some meaning that I'd missed.I usually don't read books twice but I had seconds on this one.

1-0 out of 5 stars Great reading?Are you kidding me?
Who could possibly claim the following sentence (which DOES occur in this novel) is in any way good, or that it was written by an author with even a shred of skill?:"High though he was getting, Chuck, what with his three years at M.I.T. and his 800 SAT score, is digging me utterly."

Flannery O'Connor, in a letter to one of her friends, wrote of Thomas Wolfe that anyone who admired his novels liked good fiction only by accident.The same holds true for Walker Percy.

5-0 out of 5 stars The End Is Near
What do you do when the world is coming to an end right before your very eyes, but no one seems to believe you?That is the concept facing Dr. Thomas More, distant relation to the famous/infamous Saint Thomas More, in Walker Percy's novel "Love In The Ruins".The United States is at a time of crisis, but few seem to understand the implications of the events unfolding around them.It is up to Dr. More, who knows how to diagnose the problem, but not necessarily treat it, to try to prevent the chaos from happening.

The story begins on a hot fourth of July, with Doc staking out the abandoned Howard Johnsons motel in town.In three separate rooms he has cocooned his three paramours and he is waiting for an event that he knows is going to happen; an event that could very possibly bring about the end of the world.The novel then shifts back in time to the three previous days, tracing Doc's journey that led him to seek refuge at the motel.The reader learns that he has created a Ontological Lapsometer, a sort of "stethoscope of the human spirit", through which he can diagnose exactly what ails a person's soul, and finally discovers how to treat it.Meanwhile, there is a revolution brewing; the Bantus and love children are ready to take over what the white man has destroyed, if a major catastrophe doesn't befall everyone before that can happen.

"Love In The Ruins" is a truly southern novel, crafted through Percy's intelligence and tempered with the same absurdity that is a trademark of great southern writers such as Percy and Flannery O'Connor.The reader must suspend disbelief as to the events unfolding, even though they are frighteningly realistic, and not so far-fetched in this present day.Percy's hero Doc More is an antihero on par with those of Hemingway; flawed, prone to drink, forever chasing after women who are wrong for him.This novel is his coming-of-age, in a sense, because Doc learns what it is he wants out of life, and how to best achieve that.Subtitled "The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World", "Love In The Ruins" is a deliciously funny and poignant look at a near-apocalyptic America.

4-0 out of 5 stars Saying a little bit in a glorious way
Walker Percy was a little too much of a child of post-WWII America, taking himself, his Catholicism, the South, and Manifest Destiny entirely too seriously.That being said, he was a gifted author, and "Love in the Ruins" showcases his keen powers of observation, a Chestertonian ability to wonder at triviality, and an incisive wit.

I cannot help but compare Percy to John Barth.Love in the Ruins bears similarity to Giles Goat-Boy in the sense that both are thoroughly informed by the temporal abortion of the 1960's.But where Barth never emerged from his cocoon of depravity, Percy walks the same ground and retains a vestigal morality.Though the majority of Love in the Ruins is a dystopic fantasy, Percy is able to communicate real and heartrending emotion through Dr. Tom More's periodic memories of his daughter.Outside of this one thread (never fully developed) Percy's work is synthetic: brilliant, but inhuman.

There is an interesting bit of commentary on the Catholic Church as seen through the lens of post Vatican II confusion, and it is hard not to see a parallel between the three "loves" of Dr. More and the three pieces of the splintered Catholic Church.Whereas Percy invents a schism in which the American Catholic Church, the Dutch Schismatics, and the Roman Catholic Church compete with varying effectiveness for the Catholic population, so do Lola, Moira, and Ellen lay different claims to More's ultimate allegience.Lola, like the (Tridentine) American Catholic Church, is big, graceless, but a talented classical cellist.Commitment to Lola would bring More into the goodwill of society and offer a comfortable life in the presence of a hollow classicism.Moira, like the Dutch Schismatics, is shallow, sexual and effortless; offering little but expecting nothing.Ellen, like the Roman Church, is demanding, presumptuous, somewhat naive, but salvific.

Love in the Ruins is a novel of tensions, with the protaganist held in a sort of self-imposed exile in the midst of those tensions: neither Knothead or Leftist, scientist or layman, AmChurch or Roman.The novel concerns the inflection points associated with the inability to sustain these tensions.Percy paints man as a being with a deep rift in his nature, paved with a thin veneer that disguises the self divorced from itself.And, being a novel concerned ultimately with God, Percy paints a tantalizing picture: his image of man forsaken of himself gives a clue to the fullness of the human condition expressed as God forsaken of God in the cry: "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?"

While taken as a whole, the ending is not satisfying in the Dickensian sense, Love in the Ruins is not a morbid novel.Nor is it a progressive novel.Adherents of Call to Action and modern Amchurch afficianados will find an unstable ally in Percy, for his soteriology is as fully developed as his catechism.Percy, through Dr. More, emerges from the fog of zeitgeist intact, which is much more than can be said of most of his generation. ... Read more

3. The Second Coming: A Novel
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 368 Pages (1999-09-13)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$3.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312243243
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Will Barrett (also the hero of Percy's The Last Gentleman) is a lonely widower suffering from a depression so severe that he decides he doesn't want to continue living. But then he meets Allison, a mental hospital escapee making a new life for herself in a greenhouse. The Second Coming is by turns touching and zany, tragic and comic, as Will sets out in search of God's existence and winds up finding much more.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (30)

3-0 out of 5 stars Major Flaws in What Could Have Been a Great Novel
The Second Coming held my interest and I enjoyed reading it, even though it did drag a little sometimes. The strength of the novel was Percy's portrayal of the disaffection I imagine many affluent and "successful" Americans feel. But I have to subtract at least one star for what one reviewer called the author's "lecherous fantasy" (truly troubling) and another for the ending that seemed rushed and not believable.

1-0 out of 5 stars Never received order
I purchased this book (The Second Coming by Walker Percy) with a gift certificate, June 1,2010 and marked for expedited delivery - to arrive June 11 as I needed the book no later than June 14 for a book club review. On June 12 delivery had not been received so I emailed regarding the status. Not until June 14 did I receive an email indicating that the book was not available and the cost had been reimbursed to my gift certificate account. I certainly understand if the book was not available; however, timely notification of this fact would have shown that my order was of value and given me time to locate the product elsewhere.As it turned out, I was very frustrated with #1) I did not receive the book and #2) the lack of good (timely) customer service.

4-0 out of 5 stars Liked it
Quick Review:this book takes place mostly within the mind of Will Barrett, who is sliding in and out of reality throughout the entire book.He is often lost within his memories, self analysis and existential wonderings.It is one of those books you have to read slowly and without a desire for plot.I enjoyed the eccentricities of the Allison character a lot, especially her language.I recommend it for anyone who enjoys books with psychological themes, as the two leading characters are each dealing with their own issues and the book is largely composed of them.The book is interesting, humorous, stimulating and raises questions about our relationship to God and religion and other humans.

5-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant literary tapestry
This book is quite easily the best book I have read all year! Granted it's only January 8, but I'm pretty sure the statement will hold. The people who have criticized this book as repetitious and boring are misinterpreting Percy's writing. What grates them about his writing, is what makes Percy a master. There are points of tedium in the book (very very brief ones), there is repetition, there are twists and turns, but all this is done in order to bring to life the great story which he is trying to tell. The story doesn't progress in a straight line, but every time it twists, doubles back and shoots out at unforeseen angles, it makes the story all the more engaging. That is the magic of Percy's writing, his characters truly come to life, warts and all. I read this book over several evenings, and the last time I sat down to read it, I couldn't put it down until it was over.

4-0 out of 5 stars Waiting for a Sign
Walker Percy was an unusally gifted novelist.He had the ability to bring the unlikeliest characters to life amid stories that were both fantastic and real.His characters deal with the oddities of life in search of what is true for them.With "The Second Coming", Percy may have created his most bizarre characters and outcomes out of any of his novels.

"The Second Coming" drifts back and forth between the narrations of a young girl named Allison and a retired lawyer named Will Barrett.Allison has just escaped from a mental institution and is intent upon making her life her own, if she can only remember or discover who she really is.Will Barrett retired young and spends his days playing golf, living an ordinary life, until he starts falling down, victim to supposed "petty mall" spells.By chance he encounters Allison in the woods, and the two strike up a strange friendship, and turn out to be the only ones who understand each other.But their unlikely friendship falls victim to Will's sickness, and both most sort out their lives before they can truly begin living.

Walker Percy was a gifted writer, who managed to explore intellectual and spiritual issues in a lighthearted, comic way."The Second Coming" can definitely be hard to read at times, with the strange way Allison constructs sentences and Will's fascination with the "exodus" of the Jews from Carolina.Both characters, especially Will, drift back and forth in time, and their rambling minds can make for some tangential reading.The ending feels a bit rushed after the long strange trip the two characters take, but it is a perfect fit for these characters and the answers Will has been looking for. ... Read more

4. The Last Gentleman: A Novel
by Walker Percy
 Paperback: 416 Pages (1999-09-04)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312243081
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Will Barrett is a 25-year-old wanderer from the South living in New York City, detached from his roots and with no plans for the future, until the purchase of a telescope sets off a romance and changes his life forever.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

2-0 out of 5 stars The Last Percy Novel For Me? Maybe.
Ok, ok, ok this is one of those books that has been hyped by a ton of people for an age. Why? Well, because many of these people claim that the book is a visionary commentary of the vapid state of modernity. It might be, but I want a book in which I can become lost for a short time. Not some deep window into another man's mental farts. That is all this book is, well maybe not. I mean, if you accept that actually reading this book has as much point as most of the main character's doings then you might have some satire here. Since the author was making a point about how senseless modern life is and you just have got done reading a modern classic, this might be the case. Anyway, well-written drivel for anyone can be found in this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Coming Into Life
Walker Percy made a name for himself by capturing the alienation that exists in everyday, mundane life.His novels could aptly be labled southern gothics for his characters are some of the most bizarre yet ordinary people you will ever come across in fiction.Set in the early 1960s, "The Last Gentleman" follows the adventures and mishaps of Will Barrett, a twenty-five-year-old wanderer who is searching for his home, his life, and himself.

The novel begins with Barrett purchasing an expensive telescope so he can photograph a peregrine falcon in Central Park, only to "capture" sight of a young woman with whom he immediately falls in love.Between his daily therapy sessions, Barrett, who has fugues and amnesic states and general symptoms of ill mental being, searches for this mystery girl.When he finally encounters her, she is visiting her dying younger brother in the hospital.Because he is from the South, Barrett is welcomed into the Vaught family only to find himself more confused than he ever was before.This is where Barrett's real journey begins, as he follows the Vaughts back home and tries to be lover to Kitty, friend to the dying Jamie, and patient to the oldest brother Sutter.Readers follow Barrett on this rambling journey through the South as well as through the inner workings of his mind as he tries to figure out what it is he is searching for.

Walker Percy was a gifted writer, able to make even the strangest of impossibilites seem real.Barrett and the Vaughts are vividly brought to life, yet Percy distances himself from his creations, especially Barrett, whom he often refers to as "the engineer".Readers may often find themselves wondering where the narrative is going and exactly how things will turn out for Barrett among this family that has several unlikable members.The ending is a bit of a letdown since it just seems to end with little conclusion offered to what will happen to these unique characters.

4-0 out of 5 stars Philosophical novel
None of us, I think would bother to read a philosophical novel where the characters merely spend all their time involved in philosophical dialogue. It would be better just to read straight philosophy and get the concentrated dosage. So the trick is to write a novel in which the characters and happenings are engaging enough in their own right to hold our interest, all the while being vehicles for the ideas the author wants to explore.

This is the kind of book we encounter in 'The Last Gentleman'. It can be difficult for such a novel to reach it's proper audience. Because the book does adhere to the form of a conventional novel, many readers will be expecting more color and action to entertain them. For just such potential readers, the marketing promoters for the 1968 paperback version had concocted this blurb:"A wild safari from Central Park to New Mexico with a Princeton dropout who spies on strangers... and a dying young genius and his lively, luscious sister." While containing grains of truth, this description is entirely skewed and misleading. Nothing new about misleading blurbs, you are probably saying, but I only mention this as an example of what not to expect from the book.

We might get a more accurate indication of the author's intentions by noting the prefatory quotations from Kierkegaard and Romano Guardini, both of whom were philosophers who wrote about the problems of the individual, with an emphasis on Christian ethics. Kierkegaard was absorbed with the intelligent quest for self-identity based on investigation of the individual's relation to the circumstances of the real world, not the pious platitudes of organized Danish religion of the time, which he considered drivel. Guardini was a Catholic priest and intellectual who wrote about the problems of the modern world in light of the Catholic faith, seeing the secular nature of the modern world leading to a will to power giving birth to totalitarianism and other dangers, and stressing the role of the individual as a free moral agent answerable to God.

These philosophical underpinnings lie embedded in the story of this displaced and drifting young Southerner, Will Barrett, and his involvement with an old, upper-crust, wealthy and eccentric Southern family. His adventures, while entertaining, have the primary purpose of furthering the protagonist's odyssey toward self-knowledge. True to the spirit of Kierkegaard, this quest takes place not in the abstract realm of the intellect only, but it's itinerary is composed of very specific real-world localities with the corresponding attributes of each impacting the hero's sensibilities and challenging his incipient self-hood. He meets figures who epitomize secular, religious, worldly, naive, etc. aspects of humanity. There are no paragons; all are shown as individuals with human failings and strengths.

How well does all this succeed as literature? My answer is 4 out of 5 stars. It gave me some interesting food for thought, while providing some mildly entertaining glimpses of a certain stratum of life in the Deep South of the 1960's, as well as drama involving bigotry and other ethical considerations set in various locales, with enough irony and humor to keep things well-rounded. It is a novel of becoming rather than attaining, so don't look for any startling epiphanies in it's conclusion.

1-0 out of 5 stars More description needed
I ordered the book thinking it would be in good condition. Instead it had St Vincent de Paul Thrift Store stickers in the front cover and along the spine, magic marker marks on the front cover, no bookjacket, and slight warping to the pages. I regret ordering this and suggest that sellers add more information (some do, I realize). I would suggest that in this case, the seller mark the book at best in fair condition and detail the marking and stickers. Thank you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bored and Confused
This is actually my favorite Percy novel. While I believe the Moviegoer uses an excellent device, watching movies, to depict the alienation of the moder/post-modern man I identified much more closely with the engineer in this novel. Percy believed that boredom and a sense of disconnection were the ultimate products of the modernist agenda. I believe Barret perfectly describes the average denizen of modernity who doesn't know who he is, where he is going, or what he is for.
Autobiographically, I grew up as a transplanted midwesterner in the deep south. What I loved so much about this novel is how much I could identify with the main character's sense of rootlessness. ... Read more

5. Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 432 Pages (2000-04-01)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$8.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312254199
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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At his death in 1990, Walker Percy left a considerable legacy of uncollected nonfiction. Assembled in Signposts in a Strange Land, these essays on language, literature, philosophy, religion, psychiatry, morality, and life and letters in the South display the imaginative versatility of an author considered by many to be one the greatest modern American writers.
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Customer Reviews (6)

2-0 out of 5 stars off the beaten track of modern life
a better title for this book might be, strange signposts in an otherwise interesting world.He became a devout Catholic while the rest of us were questioning its relevance. C. Pierce's psychologic discovery or insight does not seem especially significant.This MD does not provide the right presciption for our times.

4-0 out of 5 stars Repetitive, But Revealing
This is not the place to start, if you haven't read Percy before.When read fresh, much of this collection of essays comes across as rambling, with the themes of "Southerner," "Catholic," "Author," "Southern Catholic Author," and "Fan o' Kierkegaard & Dostoevsky" running incessantly throughout the volume.

However, Percy's engaging wit keeps the essays entertaining, and it is interesting to watch his fixations and how they change (or don't change) over time.

Of particular value is the discourse on semiotics, which is a nice primer to the uninitiated, but doesn't help one make heads or tails of Umberto Eco.

Still, I would recommend reading Percy's fiction before tackling this collection.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Percy Compilation
This book is perfect as either an introduction to Walker Percy's thought or as a final collection of essays for the longtime fan."Signposts" is the only book available that provides Percy's writing from virtually every stage of his life, including the period when he was completely unknown.That fact alone makes it worth the purchase.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to a great American thinker
Though better known as a novelist, Walker Percy began his writing career with non-fiction pieces of a philosophical bent.He remains one of the most philosophical novelists of the late 20th century, and his first novel,The Moviegoer, is widely acknowledged as one of the masterpieces ofcontemporary literature. This collection covers Percy's major interestsover the span of his career:the literally miraculous ability of humans tocommunicate with language, the unique qualities of Southern writing (andwhy, for instance, there are no great Los Angeles novelists or Zen Buddhistnovelists), and the curious fact that late-twentieth century western man isbored, weary, and sad, despite living in the most affluent period in humanhistory.

Like C. S. Lewis, Percy became a Christian after spending hisyoung adult years as a confirmed atheist.For this reason, he isparticularly adept at addressing the intellectual impediments to belief. His work is the perfect antidote to those who think that smart people don'tbelieve in God.He was also a scientist, having been trained as a medicaldoctor.Science, he believed, has discovered how the universe works buthas been unable to address the most important fact of our existence:thateach of us is a self-aware human being who will one day die.Percy wasprofoundly influenced by Kierkegaard and thus has been called a Christianexistentialist, though he finds the term has become meaningless throughoveruse.

This is a fascinating overview of Percy's ideas.As a bonus,the book concludes with a whimsical self-interview that lets us see what adelightful man he would have been to know.Highly recommended, along withhis Lost in the Cosmos, which further develops many of the ideas here inthe mock format of a self-help book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to a great American thinker
Though better known as a novelist, Walker Percy began his writing career with non-fiction pieces of a philosophical bent.He remains one of the most philosophical novelists of the late 20th century, and his first novel,The Moviegoer, is widely acknowledged as one of the masterpieces ofcontemporary literature. This collection covers Percy's major interestsover the span of his career:the literally miraculous ability of humans tocommunicate with language, the unique qualities of Southern writing (andwhy, for instance, there are no great Los Angeles novelists or Zen Buddhistnovelists), and the curious fact that late-twentieth century western man isbored, weary, and sad, despite living in the most affluent period in humanhistory.

Like C. S. Lewis, Percy became a Christian after spending hisyoung adult years as a confirmed atheist.For this reason, he isparticularly adept at addressing the intellectual impediments to belief. His work is the perfect antidote to those who think that smart people don'tbelieve in God.He was also a scientist, having been trained as a medicaldoctor.Science, he believed, has discovered how the universe works buthas been unable to address the most important fact of our existence:thateach of us is a self-aware human being who will one day die.Percy wasprofoundly influenced by Kierkegaard and thus has been called a Christianexistentialist, though he finds the term has become meaningless throughoveruse.

This is a fascinating overview of Percy's ideas.As a bonus,the book concludes with a whimsical self-interview that lets us see what adelightful man he would have been to know.Highly recommended, along withhis Lost in the Cosmos, which further develops many of the ideas here inthe mock format of a self-help book. ... Read more

6. The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do With the Other
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 272 Pages (2000-04-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$8.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312254016
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In Message in the Bottle, Walker Percy offers insights on such varied yet interconnected subjects as symbolic reasoning, the origins of mankind, Helen Keller, Semioticism, and the incredible Delta Factor. Confronting difficult philosophical questions with a novelist's eye, Percy rewards us again and again with his keen insights into the way that language possesses all of us.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Walker Percy Signposts in a Strange Land
I bought this as a gift and am pleased with its good condition.It had a bent front cover, but other than that, it seemed in excellent condition.

5-0 out of 5 stars brilliant
In a see of charlatans, hucksters, half-truths and snake-oil salesmen, we find this island of wisdom.Percy, a psychiatrist turned novelist, was ever a scientist.He takes his aim at a very difficult scientific issue-the study of man.It is very hard for many to study himself, but percy believes the answer to understand man lies in the study og language. As Percy himself said, just because a primate can be taught sign-language words doesn't mean we are anywhere close to understanding human language.It is a shame this author isn't more well-known.

5-0 out of 5 stars Always the Novelist
The precursor to the, in comparision, pithy 'Lost in the Cosmos,' Message in a Bottle is less accessible than his later, more famous, book. However, Message... provides all of the necessary academic rigor that 'Lost in the Cosmos' lacks (not that LC is not a great book, it is).

Percy claims that he is, in fact, not philosopher or scientist. Rather, he wishes to be thought of as mere novelist writing as he perceives scientists and philosophers. In fact, this is a sort of claim of superiority in the sense that Percy thinks he knows more about philosophers and scientists than they know about themselves (which may be true). Even so, Percy's methods are quite scientific and philosophic. Message in a Bottle deals with the most important question of all: What is Man? Percy contends, as any good Heideggerian would, that we are essentially castaways on an island. We aren't quite sure how we got here and we don't quite know what we're supposed to do now that we are here. But Percy is a Thomist, not an existentialist (although the two are connected). While Percy finds the greatest evidence for our essential 'lostness' in the altogether baffling phenomenon of language, Percy is nevertheless concerned with what we are to do about out anxiety about existence. Percy is interested in pursuing the Thomistic project; 'completing' reason with revelation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential Percy
A few of the essays in this collection make for somewhat dry reading (Percy even says so himself), but if wonder and enlightenment are your goals, then this is an extremely rewarding book.His insights on symbolicreasoning, the origins of mankind, Hellen Keller, Semioticism, and theincredible Delta Factor are invariably fresh and thought-provoking.Percyis really onto something here; he may have only scratched the surface, butwhat he has revealed has powerful implications for all of us.

5-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and relatively unknown work
This dense, well-written and extraordinary book is an excellent introduction to the works of a great 20th century thinker.In this collection of essays, Percy manages to confront some difficultphilosophical questions in an exciting and readable context.Percy wasfirst a novelist, and his writing is seldom inaccesible. He deals ineverything from religion to science, from literary theory to travel.Hisbest writing relates to theories of language and the human being.Yet likesome of the greatest X-Files episodes, Percy leaves many things unresolved,liminal, only suggested.Message in a Bottle is designed to stimulate thereader rather than fill them with useless information. I finished readingthis book with the desire to read it again, and whenever I see it on thebookshelf I am comforted by the thought that there are people in the worldwho think for themselves, and who have the courage to print what theythink. ... Read more

7. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
by Walker Percy
Paperback: 272 Pages (2000-04-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312253990
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Walker Percy's mordantly funny and wholly original contribution to the self-help book craze deals with the Western mind's tendency toward heavy abstraction. This favorite of Percy fans continues to charm and beguile readers of all tastes and backgrounds. Lost in the Cosmos invites us to think about how we communicate with our world.
Amazon.com Review
The late Walker Percy's mordant contribution to the self-helpbook craze of the 1980s deals with the heavy abstraction of the Westernmind and speculates about why writers may be the most abstracted andleast grounded of all. (Before taking up novel writing, Percy was amedical doctor who became a patient in the very institution where he hadworked.) The book disappeared for a time. Now it's back in print. Takethe quizzes in it, then take a walk--you need to be back in the worldbefore you write another word. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (43)

3-0 out of 5 stars Huh?
I was forced to read this in Philosophy. That took away the expericance for me. It is an interesting read, and asks questions in a Socratic way that is appealing to the reader. But some of the inside jokes/references are a little dated for me as an undergrad and probally appeal to those 5-10 years older than me.

5-0 out of 5 stars Losing oneself and finding it
I enjoyed reading this book very much.It was amusing, insightful and thought provoking all at the same time.I've enjoyed reading Percy's fictional works in the past.This book is a good help in understanding the psychological predicament experienced by the characters in Percy's novels --and by many of us in in our own lives--being "lost in the cosmos."The cultural references are a bit dated since the book was published in 1983, but Percy's description of the psychological and spiritual predicament of modern humankind is as relevant now as ever.Our attempt to understand and transcend the world in which we live only tends to alienate ourselves from that world and exposes us to unhealthy or self-contradictory means of coping with it ... unless we can find a viable mode of "reentry." Percy does little more than hint at the remedy instead of spelling it out, but that's part of the fun he's having with the way so many "self-help" books are written.This is a very unique and enjoyable book that can help readers approach the very serious matter of the meaning of our own existence in the cosmos without too much fear and panic.I highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars what's wrong with the world?
If you haven't read any Percy, don't start here.Start with his novel The Last Gentleman.Some things must be done in order to fully appreciate them, and going about reading Percy in the wrong direction will be to do both him and yourself a disservice.

This book is a treasure and a treat, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Percy is one of my favorite novelist, and fast climbing the charts on the non-fiction side as well- there is a forty-odd paged interlude in the middle of this book that offers the most concise and coherent introduction to semiotics I've ever read.

This man knew what was wrong with the 20th century and spoke about the issues of the century in ways that no one else I've encountered has come even close to elucidating.

4-0 out of 5 stars Insightful, but gratuitous content
This is a clever and insightful book, but Percy uses too much explicit sexual content.Percy takes our sex-crazed society to make important points, but the details are unnecessary to do so.

I also found some of Percy's creative ideas a bit tedious and overdone.

4-0 out of 5 stars Living the Question
It was a very interesting read.It doesn't presume to offer any answers, but makes you think about the idea of "self" in a different way. And Walker Percy is a smart and good writer who will no doubt make you think about things and learn more about yourself and your surroundings.

... Read more

8. Conversations with Walker Percy (Literary Conversations Series)
Paperback: 342 Pages (1985-09-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$17.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0878052526
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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These collected interviews, like a visit with Percy at his home on the Bogue Falaya River, provide refreshing close-up encounters with one of America's most celebrated writers.

These twenty-seven interviews cover a period of twenty-two years, from the time of the publication of Percy's first novel, The Moviegoer, in 1961, until 1983, when he was interviewed about his friendship with Thomas Merton.

This volume is the second in the Literary Conversations series. These unabridged interviews, collected from a variety of sources, will give reading pleasure to general readers who wish to know Percy and his works more closely, and they will be of great use to Percy scholars. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars In 1961, who won the NATIONAL Book award? J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, or Walker Percy?
Walker Percy is the greatest American novelist of the later half of the 20th century. Why? Because he understood the mind of the character and placed him in a an existential conundrum which we all share as part of our own DNA. We become the character because the placement in a particular situation is compelling and real. In effect it is commonplace and ordinary. Now, in 1961 WP beat out Salinger and Heller as a last minute entry by his publisher. Sometimes chance has a way of making the world just a little bit brighter. A great book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Deeply satisfying addition to your Walker Percy Collection
Although Percy's output was prodigious compared to some literary greats, his six novels and two major non-fiction works leave his still-growing network of fans looking for more."Conversations with Walker Percy" meets that need.While the biographies of Percy are helpful, there's nothing quite like hearing it straight from the author in this series of interviews.I finished the volume feeling ready to tackle his novels again prepared to look for gems I'd missed the last time around.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Percy Enthusiasts
This volume (and its companion, More Conversations With Walker Percy) offers a fascinating and compelling glimpse into the mind of Walker Percy and a valuable study of the development of his literary and philosophical convictions as his career progressed. Though Percy's funny satirical piece "Questions They Never Asked Me" would seem to indicate that he found interviews dull and repetitive, the best pieces here clearly demonstrate the pleasure he took in discussing his ideas with an interested, engaged interviewer. ... Read more

9. Walker Percy Remembered: A Portrait in the Words of Those Who Knew Him
by David Horace Harwell
Paperback: 200 Pages (2010-08-30)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$9.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0807871532
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Walker Percy (1916-1990), the reclusive southern author most famous for his 1961 novel The Moviegoer, spent much of his adult life in Covington, Louisiana. In the spirit of traditional southern storytelling, this biography of Percy takes its shape from candid interviews with his family, close friends, and acquaintances. In thirteen interviews, we get to know Percy through his lifelong friend Shelby Foote, Percy's brothers LeRoy and Phin, his former priest, his housekeeper, and former teachers, among others--all in their own words. Over the course of the interviews, readers learn intimate details of Percy's writing process; his interaction with community members of different ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds; and his commitment to civil rights issues. What emerges is a multidimensional portrait of Percy as a man, a friend, and a family member. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars I wish I had met Walker Percy myself!
After reading this book, I regretted (and still regret) that I never had the pleasure of meeting Walker Percy myself. I knew all along that he turned from medicine to writing, and one of the awards he received was the Doctor of Humane Letters from Tulane University in 1977. I have read LANCELOT. And the book mentions several persons he came to know whom I vividly recall, such as Dr. V. Malcolm Byrnes (incorrectly spelled Burns in the book), who was one of the best teachers I ever had, and who opened up several avenues which I heretofore had not even known about. But there were also Dr. Charles W. Hill and Dr. Curtis Thomsen, both of whom were scientists at the Delta Primate Center in Covington, and they also knew Walker Percy. (I am mentioning the Primate Center because my late father, Dr. Helmut Hofer, was on the faculty there.) A lady with whom I attended church in Covington also knew him. And another association I had, and still have, that could have given me the opportunity to meet him was/is the Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans, LA, whose owner, Rhoda Faust, was yet another one of his friends. Through all these associations, I knew that Walker Percy was not only a great scholar and writer but also an outstanding citizen.

5-0 out of 5 stars Walker Percy Remembered
Walker Percy best described by his brothers Phin and Roy, and Shelby Foote. In Walker's books there appears to be no influence by Shelby, and in Shelby's books there is not a hint of Walker, but these friends from childhood were always a part of each other's life. The person who knew Walker Percy the least appears to be the ex-priest, James Boulware and sadly, the person who knew him best, his wife Bunt, is not heard from. A marvelous little book...will make you want to read all of Walker Percy's books!

4-0 out of 5 stars Unique windows into Walker Percy through his friends
Nicely packaged little treat for Walker Percy junkies, it can also serve as a fine introduction to the man.Harwell gives us an intelligent and well researched, but utterly unpretentious and accessible, set of interviews with some of Percy's closest associates.The reader is given insights from brothers of Percy, his priest, Shelby Foote, his teachers, housekeeper, New Orleans bookstore owner Rhoda Faust, and, most interesting of all if illusive, Rev. Will Campbell.

The picture that emerges is beautiful and complex.Percy is the committed Catholic convert, yet forever questioning.He is warm and social, yet private.Civil RIghts activist, but Vietnam War supporter to the end.

Takes its place alongside Ralph Wood as my favorite work on Percy. ... Read more

10. Walker Percy: An American Search
by Robert Coles
Hardcover: 250 Pages (1979-01)
list price: US$12.50 -- used & new: US$145.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316151602
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11. Lancelot
by Walker Percy
 Hardcover: 304 Pages (1977-01-01)

Isbn: 3426088908
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12. Lancelot: A Novel
by Walker Percy
 Paperback: 272 Pages (1999-09-04)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312243073
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Lancelot Lamar is a disenchanted lawyer who finds himself confined in a mental asylum with memories that don't seem worth remembering. It all began the day he accidentally discovered he was not the father of his youngest daughter, a discovery which sent Lancelot on modern quest to reverse the degeneration of America. Percy's novel reveals a shining knight for the modern age--a knight not of romance, but of revenge.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (20)

5-0 out of 5 stars Walker Percy's finest novel
Even though his last novel was published over twenty years ago, Walker Percy remains one of the most insightful authorial voices about the perilous state Western humanity finds itself in in our contemporary age. LANCELOT remains his greatest fictional accomplishment, with his most refined sense of character and purpose.

However, readers may misunderstand the novel if they fail to take into account the book's epigraph: "He sank so low that all means / for his salvation were gone, / except showing him the lost people." Here's a hint: the epigraph does not refer to the central figure and narrator, Lancelot.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Knight's Tale
Walker Percy is an establishment in modern southern literature.His novels, while roving in plot, are firmly set explorations of time and place, of people's actions and reactions."Lancelot" is a quick-paced, at-times absurd read through the mind of one man in an insane asylu: it is Percy at his wittiest and most unguarded.

The reader is drawn in immediately, beckoned by Lancelot's call to 'come into my cell', a statement made to a psychiatrist-priest, but reads as if directed at the reader.Lancelot begins by regaling his old friend with stories of their shared youths, before moving into the gaps where they lost touch with each other - his marriages and children, his famous house Belle Isle, and the most important, the reason why he is in the "nuthouse".Lancelot's narrataive shifts rapidly between times, one minute focused on his most recent wife Margot before shifting almost with no transition to his first wife.The core of the story lies with Lancelot's discovery that his youngest daughter is not his and that his wife is still cheating on him.With her gang of movie friends filming at Bell Isle, Lancelot tries to find the evidence he needs to prove that Margot is unfaithful to him, and takes the solution to that problem in his own hands.

Readers of Walker Percy may be most familiar with "The Moviegoer" or other more popular titles.They may be surprised by the frankness of "Lancelot", the blunt observations and fantasies of its main character, and how graphic some of those observations and thoughts are.Yet this seeming departure is in keeping with the story at hand and with Lancelot's character."Lancelot" is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with several laugh-out-loud moments, with a somewhat ambiguous ending that will leave readers wanting to know more.

5-0 out of 5 stars From Despair to Evil
Percy's Lancelot draws on a thought from Kierkegaard that begins his book the Moviegoer (paraphasing), "The worst thing about being in despair is not knowing one is in despair." From his despair, Lancelot's anger and rage drive him on a quest for the Holy Grail of Evil that leads to ultimately great crimes. But, in his quest he discovers the truth about evil, that it is in fact a "nothing" because it exists only in relation to the good. However, thediscovery of the "nothingness" of evil has grave consequences which Lancelot describes through much of the novel.
The dialgoue of Lancelot and Percival does a great job of showing that one's "character" is the sum total of his/her moral choices. Lancelot makes a choice for evil and reaps the consequences that spin him into moral chaos, while Percival (his friend the priest-psychiatrist) has chosen to follow the path of goodness. The book is a great comparison and contrast of the battle of good and evil that occurs in every one of us.

4-0 out of 5 stars Like strolling down a hospital corridor and trying not to look in the half-cracked doors
Reading Walker Percy's "Lancelot" is like strolling down a hospital corridor and trying not to look in the half-cracked doors where there are likely sites best unseen-but failing. Mr. Percy, who was one of the best writers in the last quarter of the 20th Century, took the quest motif from medieval literature-specifically the quest for the Holy Grail-and inverted it so that the quest now centers on finding the darkest evil, in order to prove that good exists beyond the abstract.

His main character, Lancelot, is the sole speaker in the book, the entire novel a refraction of his recovering memory, shattered by the horrific murders he committed as a reaction to the decaying morality and facile values here amplified by a Hollywood film crew and his adulterous wife. The only other character who exists in "real time" is Lancelot's lifelong friend, Perceval, now a Catholic priest, who serves a touchstone for the ranting Lancelot.

Both characters are either recovering or evolving, or both, from their encounters with life's vicissitudes. If there is a take home message, then it might be the value of staying aware and alert to one's self amidst the mind-numbing banality that rises to the surface of modern life.

Putting aside the story, theme, and plot, it's a pleasure to read "Lancelot" because of Mr. Percy's thoughtfully paced and measured prose and his slow revelation of character and motive. He turns out many brilliant, indelible phrases throughout the book, creating indelible images that linger long after the details of the story fade and blur.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Percy's Best, But...
Quite frankly, I found this the most difficult and least enjoyable of Percy's books.

Percy is at his usual cranky self, poking at the delusions of modern life and ridiculing our self-assurance in spite of the fact that we're all rather lost. Good questions are asked. What is love and is it real? Is secular liberalism or Christianity true? What does sex mean? How can we escape boredom? Is life just some cosmic joke?

What is missing in Lancelot, in my opinion, is the sly humour found in The Second Coming or Love in the Ruins. Lancelot is a departure from Percy's typical protagonist, not because he is some crazy, libidinal loner who concocts an apocalyptic scheme to prove some cosmic point (because all of Percy's protagonists fit that bill), but because he isn't particularly funny. Lancelot lacks the sense that the world is bigger than himself, and is so serious that he rarely cracks a joke. His soliloquies, therefore, end up as overly explicit narratives concerning other humourless characters. This is especially true of the play within the play --- the movie making subplot which gets a little self-referential (after all, isn't this the most cinematic of Percy's novels?).

Still, enjoy Percy's craftsmanship, for there are far too few of his novels to be too fussy. What else is a crazy, libidinal, apocalyptic loner to do? ... Read more

13. The Correspondence of Shelby Foote & Walker Percy
by Shelby Foote
Paperback: 324 Pages (1998-05-01)
list price: US$21.95 -- used & new: US$12.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393317684
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
In the late 1940s, Walker Percy and Shelby Foote, friends since their teenage years in Greenville, Mississippi, began a correspondence that would last until Percy's death in 1990. Walker Percy, the highly regarded author of The Moviegoer, wrote six novels, two volumes of philosophical writings, and numerous essays. Shelby Foote met with early success as a novelist, but his reputation today rests more upon his massive three-volume narrative history of the Civil War, and his role as commentator in Ken Burns's documentary The Civil War. The correspondence between Percy and Foote traces their lives from the beginning of their respective careers, when they were grappling fiercely and openly with their ambitions, artistic doubts, and personal problems. Although they discuss such serious matters as the death of Foote's mother and Percy's battle with cancer, their letters are full of sly humor and good-natured ribbing. Jay Tolson has selected, edited, and annotated the letters of these two remarkable writers to shed light on their relationship and their literary careers. Includes an eight-page insert with photographs of the writers chronicling their friendship.Amazon.com Review
Mississippi has produced some of the nation'sfinest literary voices, includingShelby Foote andWalkerPercy. Foote spent much of his career reconstructing the Civil Warin a 1.6 million-word trilogy (he was the smooth-drawling storytellerin Kenneth Burns's television series on the conflict). Percy was aphilosophical novelist whose work includes The Moviegoer and The ThanatosSyndrome. Not only were the two friends, but they correspondedfor years, leaving behind a series of letters unearthed by biographerJay Tolson.Tolson, the author of an exhaustive book on Percy, Pilgrim in the Ruins,shows that, unlike other Southern writers such as WilliamFaulkner, Foote and Percy always acted as quite decent fellows,Southerners with manners and brains. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for Percy or Foote fans
It is a rare treasure to find a book like this. "Correspondence" gives insight to the artistry, friendship, and psychology of two gifted writers/curmudgeons.

A little advice to the prospective reader. Forgive Shelby Foote his apparent crankiness, which may be the most notable feature of this book. As other reviews note, Percy is absent through much of the volume. Foote's tone, already tinged with youthful didacticism, is transformed into a soliloquy which is boastful and (at times) rude.

Appearances may be misleading, however. While on the surface egotistical, Foote's often incisive letters betray far more complex motives. He searches for true conversation, for a way to gauge his art (his central pursuit). Percy may come across as aloof, or even vague, but this may be due to the hidden lifelong friendship behind these letters.

A wonderful read

3-0 out of 5 stars Too much Foote, Not enough Percy!
I bought this book because of an enduring love affair with the literary works of Walker Percy.As an addition to the literary biographies of Percy written by Samway and Tolson, the letters serve their purpose well.As a letters volume on its own merits, The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy is unbalanced.Apparently, Foote didn't start saving Percy's letters until the exchange had been occurring for some time.Nevertheless, it is thoroughly interesting to observe Foote's massive ego as he lectures Percy, having the knowledge that Percy ultimately became the far greater literary star.If you've already delved deeply into the work and history of Walker Percy, you'll need this book.If not, find a different starting place, this is not a good place to begin.

5-0 out of 5 stars Pity poor Shelby Foote
Pity Shelby Foote.Most people know his as a writer of books on the Civil War.But when you read this book of letters you see that what thrilled him most was reading great literature.

The reader of this book of letters between two friends will be thrilled by talk of literature.Foote is like Herr Settembrini of Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain".He is so overwhelmed by humantistic learning that he finds he must educate his friend and mentor Hans Castrop, in this case Walker Percy.

It is ironic that the prodigy in this case, Walker Percy, soon eclipses the mentor.Walker Percy agonizes in his early letters about his inability to have his novels published while Foote publishes his books in rapid succession.But today Percy's "Moviegoer" and other books are still read while only Foote's "Shiloh" is really still popular.It seems Foote is stuck with Civil War fame have written his long classic on the war.

Reading Foote's letters is where I discovered Flanney O'Connor.Walker Percy and Shelby Foote spoke highly of her here.They also talk about the important of reading Marcel Proust, Faulkner, and a dozen others.Toward the end Foote begins to spew forth on the merits of reading the Greek classics.It is his description of these books and their authors that adds to one's own literary education.

The first part of the book is a little annoying because Shelby Foote threw away the letters that Walker Percy sent to him for the first many years of their correspondence.So you keep reading Shelby Foote but are not privvy to what Walker Percy as to say.

4-0 out of 5 stars interesting but unsettling
This was a great read, but each of the correspondents disappointed in their own ways. Percy's letters are written in an intelligent but notably vague style; Foote's have more bite and literary polish, but at the sametime display a nasty streak in his personality that remained invisible inhis brilliant _Civil War_.

It's a bit sickening to watch on as Footeseduces the wife of a local doctor, and later recommends to Percy (oh sowittily) that he use pillows to prop up the crotches of female UNCundergrads so that they might better serve his wishes.

On the brightside, it is hilarious to watch Foote react to a letter from a cluelesslibrarian accusing him of failing to mention Gettysburg in his history (sheseems not to have realized that it was a multi-volume work). Even moreimportantly, the entire collection is thought-provoking.

5-0 out of 5 stars Like eavsedropping on a fabulous conversation
I don't know when I have enjoyed a book of letters so much. Usually such things represent only a given writer's letters to a variety of people. This volume is a correspondence between two friends that covers five decades andin it one is able to see them grow, change and take delight in a constantverbal duel that must have been going on from the time they first met asteenagers. For two decades this 'conversation' is mostly a monologuebecause Foote didn't start saving Percy's letters until the 70's, but it isoften easy to imagine Percy's letters from Foote's responses - hisanswering specific questions and arguing against certain statements.

Itis so much fun to see Foote trying for 50 years to get Percy to readProust, and Percy simply ignoring the injunctions. This is just one of theongoing literary 'wars' that are fought between these two significantwriters who, while being diametrically different in style and theme, werethe closest of friends from the age of 14.

I found that once started, Icouldn't stop reading. From the first chatty letter from Foote in which heproposes his desire to be a great novelist to the last 'letter' - a messageread at Percy's memorial service - the book has the forward momentum of agood novel, the intellectual give and take of a Platonic dialogue and thewarmth and humor that only good friends can bring to lifelongdisagreements. I think this is a great book and, for all who think thatliterature is important, a wonderful window into the thinking of two fineminds. ... Read more

14. The Art of Walker Percy: Stratagems for Being
Paperback: 336 Pages (1979-12-01)
list price: US$23.95 -- used & new: US$23.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0807124559
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15. Lost In the Cosmos
by Walker Percy
 Mass Market Paperback: Pages (1984-06)
list price: US$4.95 -- used & new: US$15.00
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Asin: 0671630067
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16. Walker Percy's Sacramental Landscapes: The Search in the Desert
by Allen Pridgen
Hardcover: 258 Pages (2000-11)
list price: US$41.50
Isbn: 1575910403
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars All about Walker Percy, Literature, and The Human Condition
I came to this book for a good literary discussion, which I know Pridgen can produce in abundance. What I found is a sense of the connectedness of all things, a strong defense of the Percy premise that a self alone is ridiculous, and a better understanding of the relationship between the literary elements of author, text, critic, and reader.

Pridgen's book Waker Percy's Sacramental Landscapes: the Search in the Desert is definitive on the subject of Walker Percy. I read or re-read the Percy novels and some of the Percy essays while reading Sacramental Landscapes for the first time. If you enjoyed The Last Gentleman but couldn't figure out the ending, or if you are still looking for words to connect the Will Barrett of that book to the Will Barrett in its sequel, search no more. Allen Pridgen has assembled the details of the character, along with the social, religious, ethical, and philosophical details of the novels. He gives the same fine analytical treatment to Love in the Ruins and The Thanatos Syndrome.

If you are a reader, you know that some books you forget and others you carry with you forever. What you may not know, and in a busy modern world may never take time to understand, is why this is so. Sacramental Landscapes is a discussion of the reason that Percy's books print themselves in your mind and become a part of you. If you have taken time to try to understand this reason, you are probably a writer. Or you might be a person with an advanced degree in philosophy, religion, or literature.

I am none of these except perhaps a little of a writer. What draws me to the Pridgen analysis of Percy is my heritage in Christian fundamentalism, my enduring interest in Mary as envisioned by the Catholic church in doctrine, sacrament, and legend, and my native tendency to see any occurrence of beauty or meaning as a magical effect of the energetic source that we all forever seek.

Sacramental Landscapes: the Search in the Desert is as compelling as its subject matter, which includes Walker Percy, Christian theology and tradition, and what it means to be human. With thorough scholarly attention to Percy, to the texts of Percy's books and essays, to the cultural and religious assumptions embedded in the works, and to previous critical comment, the book is also a clear revelation of the multifaceted nature of the literary experience for those who participate as readers, writers, critics, students, and teachers. ... Read more

17. The Thanatos Syndrome: A Novel
by Walker Percy
 Paperback: 416 Pages (1999-09-04)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$9.53
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312243324
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Returning home to the small Louisiana parish where he had praticed psychiatry, Dr. Tom More quickly notices something strange occuring with the townfolk, a loss of inhibitions.Behind this mystery is a dangerous plot drug the local water supply, and a discovery that takes More into the underside of the American search for happiness.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

3-0 out of 5 stars Slow Read
This story is based on a moral dilemma that is very relevant today. A good story, that kept me guessing until the book was almost over. This book is a bit of a slower read that I prefer, but well worth the time taken. Part medical mystery, part alternative history, this story is not for all readers. There are some mildly disturbing references to child pornography, racial and regional astigmatisms, and some religious moments that can be upsetting. I would recommend this book to those who can look past this type of content.

5-0 out of 5 stars a phrophecy on our culture of death, dressed as an angel of light
Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome has been mislabeled a thriller. No. It is Percy's same sly, wry, and dry humor but with a twist: he has adopted another garb on the same voice.
And that voice is: once we abandon our search for trying to know what it is to be human we become merely animals, and therefore no longer greater than angels, but discardable. When we say we are only manipulated blobs of animate matter our world ends in worshiping death and our device is the gas chambers.
The story arc follows an anti-hero, Percy's alter ego "psyche-iatrist" a laid back doctor in a backwater populated by all types and all income levels. Returning from a period of disgrace in a low security federal penitentiary for selling speed to truck drivers the shade of Dr. Freud peaks over his shoulder as he examines changed patient after changed patient. On the surface his patients appear more content, but underneath they have been chemically lobotomized. They happily fornicate at random, eat, defecate, and display no inhibitions, but do retain astonishing higher brain functions. The community has become a chimp colony, and everyone knows whom are the alpha males and females.
Percy uses the familiar plot of a conspiracy to make his philosophical points on what it is to be human, and what you are actually doing when you decide to drop the mantle of Elijah, and instead proclaim yourself God. His prose is circular and meditative, but clear and astonishing, as upon completion of each chapter a small light of clarity takes on full power and illuminates this darkness.
A profound and stunning last novel, that is prophetic as we today suffer under the very Thanatos Syndrome of which Percy warned. We swim in a culture of death.

5-0 out of 5 stars Walker Percy's final novel is a wonderful last word
Walker Percy was southern and Catholic, Kurt Vonnegut was northern and secular, not minor differences, but perhaps they recognized each other as literary relatives. Both were inclined to use comedy, at times the slapstick variety, in order to talk about some of the unfunniest subjects in the world, like war, euthanasia, abortion, and other justifications we cook up for killing one another.

Percy's hero in this book, as in his earlier novel, Love in the Ruins, is Dr. Thomas More, resident of a rural Louisiana parish (what we yankees call a county) and a direct descendent of St. Thomas More. Like his ancestor, he has been a prisoner, but for selling amphetamines to truckers rather than for acts of fideility to conscience. Also like his ancestor, he is a Catholic, except in the current generation, things being what they are, More's connection to his Church is threadbare. Still there is a bit of religious glue holding body and soul together. Tom More isn't able to make himself comfortable with the contemporary mercies that pave the way to the gas chamber and the abortorium.

In The Thanatos Syndrome we encounter a few psychiatrists who makes heaps of money running the Qualitarian Center, where the old and/or feeble-minded are provided with Death with Dignity. In their spare time, using a federal grant, the clever doctors are in the midst of a local experiment that they regard as the best idea since fluoride in toothpaste. While sticking to bottled water for themselves, they are lacing the water supply with a substance (borrowed from a nearby nuclear generator) that knocks out the part of the brain that makes people dangerous and miserable. Violent crime has evaporated in the area effected. Black prisoners are singing the old spirituals as they cheerfully pick cotton on the local prison farm. Sexual-transmitted diseases have practically disappeared. No more AIDS, no more herpes.

At first glance it looks like the doctors have found a chemical method to mass produce the lifestyle of the saints. People drinking the local water aren't inclined to do the sorts of things that make headlines in The National Enquirer. (But not quite. It turns out that adults who drink too much of the local water find that the ideal sex-partners are children.)

The part of the brain made dormant also happens to be where the soul and conscience hang out. It is the patch that has most to do with creativity, verbal skills, and what makes us who we are. Those drinking the local water are better at telling you exactly where St. Louis is than in making a sentence that includes a subject, verb and object. They are a whiz at bridge but incapable of theology.

Percy links what is now happening in manipulative medical technology in the US and what was going on with psychiatry in Germany from the twenties until the collapse of the Nazis, at the same time pointing out that you don't have to like Hitler (the German shrinks didn't) to end up doing some of the worst things that happened in Hitler's Germany.

Percy integrates a steady stream of observation about the American Way of Life and what is like living in "the Age of Not Knowing What to Do." For example here is Tom More reflecting about a patient who, before the local water ironed out all depression and anxiety, felt like a failure:

"What is failure? Failure is what people do ninety-nine percent of the time. Even in the movies: ninety-nine outtakes for one print. But in the movies they don't show the failures. What you see are the takes that work. So it looks as if every action, even going crazy, is carried off in a proper, rounded-off way. It looks as if real failure is unspeakable. TV has screwed up millions of people with their little rounded-off stories. Because that is not the way life is. Life is fits and starts, mostly fits."

Percy continues his assessment of contemporary American Catholicism that began in Love in the Ruins. Fr. Kev Kevin, the former director of the Love Clinic, has abandoned the controls of the Orgasmatron computer and given up the priesthood as well. He is "into Hinduism," has married a former nun who is taking up witchcraft, and together they run a marriage encounter center in a rehabilitated stable.

In The Thanatos Syndrome we meet a very different kind of priest: Fr. Simon Smith, a modern stylite, fasting atop a fire-watch tower as the book begins. People consider him crazy as a loon. Maybe he is, but he's a saint as well. His "confession" is the keystone of the novel. Here we discover that his vocation is an on-going penitential work having chiefly to do with the devastation his father helped bring about in Europe -- he is the son of one of the liberal German physicians (anti-Nazis one and all) whose work to "relieve suffering" via euthanasia helped prepare the way for the Holocaust.

Father Smith's big discovery in life was that "the only people I got along with were bums, outcasts, pariahs, family skeletons, and the dying." It isn't a boast. "I don't know about Mother Theresa, but I [did what I did] because I liked it, not for love of the wretched ... dying people were the only people I could stand. They were my kind ... Dying people, suffering people, don't lie."

Percy's final novel is a wonderful last word.

1-0 out of 5 stars Thumbs down for poor writing
I've been looking forward to reading a Walker Percy novel for years now, but this book was an utter disappointment. While Percy is obviously widely admired and read, after reading this novel I fail to see or comprehend the reason for his popularity. It may be just a personal mismatch with his style - how else could I have had such a poor impression of this book, and yet so many people (and even good friends of mine) like his writing? For some reason though, this book did not sit well with me at all.

What bothered me most was that many parts of the plot seemed entirely unrealistic. For instance, after seeing two patients, the protagonist already starts speaking of a "syndrome". After *two* patients?? Where did he come up with the idea of a syndrome that quickly? Moreover, the way the patients were described in the book, to me as a reader the similarities between the patients were not even apparent - the logical leap to a "syndrome" seemed utterly unwarranted. Another example is when Lucy uses the computer to find out all the information they need, very quickly and effortlessly. If it was that easy, why didn't anyone else already do it, such as the government? Is it really realistic that such a GP like Lucy would have had access to all that information, or that she would have had such high security clearance? That whole information gathering was just too convenient and complete to be realistic - within what seemed like 15 minutes they had basically solved the entire mystery of what was going on in the city. Lucy also seemed to have way too much knowledge about random bits of chemistry, politics and government structure at that point. A futher example: if there was mass sexual abuse going on at the school, it was unrealistic that it would not have been discovered by any other adults - surely, at least some of the children would have alerted their parents, even inadvertently, to such goings-on - especially if they were so willing to cooperate with the abuse, as Lucy reported. Wouldn't anyone else have noticed that any of the children were acting strange?

In addition, some of the characters seem to go "in and out of character" in the book, rather than remaining consistent - even their language is not always consistent, and there are random slips into local soutnern accent, but these are not convincing.

This book failed to draw me into its created world, because I was continually bothered by the logical incoherences and stylistic flaws...and for that reason, I could not fully appreciate the deeper lessons that the author apparently attempted to make here about the nature of evil and the human heart. Alas, I no longer plan to become a Walker Percy reader.

5-0 out of 5 stars Indeed the apes are our cousins
Only we are not descended from them but have descended into them.

A terrifying look at what we've become. words,words, words. Words disconnected from words, from reality. Mind disconnected from reality. In sum words without meaning, sex without meaning = life without meaning. As usual, Percy tries to focus our attention on postmodern man's meaningless.

Frightening indeed.

If you don't get it, I'm sorry. A small caveat: this is Percy at his most obscene also. Personally, I prefer Helprin. Percy is a bit depressing. ... Read more

18. Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction
by Farrell O'Gorman
Kindle Edition: 272 Pages (2004-11-30)
list price: US$44.95
Asin: B003UTU99A
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The two southern fiction writers most informed by orthodox religion, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy were also among the most influential southern writers of their generation. In Peculiar Crossroads, Farrell O’Gorman explains that the radical religiosity of O’Connor and Percy’s vision is precisely what made them so valuable as both southern fiction writers and social critics.Via their spiritual and philosophical concerns, O’Gorman asserts, these two unabashedly Catholic authors bequeathed to even their most unorthodox successors a postmodern South of shopping malls and interstates imbued with as much meaning as Appomattox or Yoknapatawpha.

O’Gorman builds his argument with biographical, historical, literary, and theological evidence, examining the two writers’ work through intriguing pairings—such as O’Connor’s Wise Blood with Percy’s The Moviegoer, and O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find with Percy’s Lancelot.He traces the influence exerted on their thought by the mid-century transatlantic Catholic Revival and by their relationships with southern modernists Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate.Ultimately, Percy and O’Connor embraced a Christian existentialist view that led them to dissent from both the historical, tragic mode of the Southern Renascence and the absurdist apocalypticism of much postwar American fiction. They were, O’Gorman concludes, transitional figures, more optimistic about their culture’s future than the modernists and more optimistic about the truth-telling capacities of language and literature than the postmodernists.

Despite their devastating satire of collapsing southern traditions and complacent American consumerism, Percy and O’Connor found hope and significance in a "Christian realism" of the "here and now"—focusing on the peculiar crossroads "where time and place and eternity somehow meet," as O’Connor described the writer’s world. Such, O’Gorman neatly reveals, is the two’s distinct legacy to a later generation of writers—including Randall Kenan, Josephine Humphreys, and Padgett Powell—who search for meaning in a postmodern South where historical themes seem increasingly problematic.

An impeccable exercise in literary history and criticism, Peculiar Crossroads renders a genuine understanding of the Catholic sensibility of both O’Connor and Percy and their influence among contemporary southern writers. ... Read more

19. Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son (Library of Southern Civilization)
by William Alexander Percy
Paperback: 348 Pages (1993)

Isbn: 0807100722
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, within the shelter of old traditions, aristocratic in the best sense, William Alexander Percy in his lifetime (1885-1942) was brought face to face with the convulsions of a changing world. Lanterns on the Levee is his memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood. In describing life in the Mississippi Delta, Percy bridges the interval between the semifeudal South of the 1800s and the anxious South of the early 1940s. The rare qualities of this classic memoir lie not in what Will Percy did in his life-although his life was exciting and varied-but rather in the intimate, honest, and soul-probing record of how he brought himself to contemplate unflinchingly a new and unstable era. The 1973 introduction by Walker Percy-Will's nephew and adopted son-recalls the strong character and easy grace of "the most extraordinary man I have ever known." AUTHOR BIO: William Alexander Percy was the author of four books of poetry, and he practiced law in Greenville until his death, one year after the publication of his autobiography. Awarded the Croix de Guerre with gold star for his service in World War I, he also was one of the leaders in the succesful 1922 fight against the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville and headed the local Red Cross unit during the disastrous Mississippi River flooding of 1927. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Lanterns on theLevee - a good book
This is an excellent book for anyone with an interest in the history of the Mississippi Delta region and especially its economy and race relations of the last 100 years. Mr. Percy gives us a first person view of a major event in the history of the Delta region of Mississippi. He weaves a good story around a historical event while explaining how the times, politics (local & national), and a major natural disaster came together to change or shape peoples' lives and views of each other. The book is a little slow in some parts with too much detail about various family legends, but it is well worth the read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rare find: an autobiography of true literary quality
Percy's approach to life can be summed up by a quote from the book: "It is a very nice world-that is, if you remember that while morals are all-important between the Lord and His creatures, what counts between one creature and another is good manners." Percy's book is a rare member of that most elusive category of books - the autobiography of true literary quality. Percy's touch is honest without being journalistic; poetic without appearing over-embroidered; and in his own eccentric person he provides the subject matter which is required to make such a work interesting. He steps out of the late 19th/early 20th century Mississippi delta as a character that could not have existed anywhere else. Affected, genteel, kind, elitist, romantic and with a view of race more in keeping with British Imperial "white man's burden" line of thought than anything American in origin - Percy the character remains fascinating even as the modern reader disagrees with his positions. A clearly and well told tale of an extinct breed (the gentrified southern aristocrat), a lost land (the Mississippi delta of the turn of the 20th century), and a buried epoch (the pre desegregation era). An excellent book - well worth reading not only to better understand a particular aspect of American history but for the pleasure of reading a well written book, regardless of the subject matter. ... Read more

20. The Last Physician: Walker Percy and the Moral Life of Medicine
Paperback: 184 Pages (1999-01-01)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$10.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0822323699
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Editorial Review

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Walker Percy brought to his novels the perspective of both a doctor and a patient. Trained as a doctor at Columbia University, he contracted tuberculosis during his internship as a pathologist at Bellevue Hospital and spent the next three years recovering, primarily in TB sanitoriums. This collection of essays explores not only Percy’s connections to medicine but also the underappreciated impact his art has had—and can have—on medicine itself.
The contributors—physicians, philosophers, and literary critics—examine the relevance of Percy’s work to current dilemmas in medical education and health policy. They reflect upon the role doctors and patients play in his novels, his family legacy of depression, how his medical background influenced his writing style, and his philosophy of psychiatry. They contemplate the private ways in which Percy’s work affected their own lives and analyze the author’s tendency to contrast the medical-scientific worldview with a more spiritual one. Assessing Percy’s stature as an author and elucidating the many ways that reading and writing can combine with diagnosing and treating to offer an antidote to despair, they ask what it means to be a doctor, a writer, and a seeker of cures and truths—not just for the body but for the malaise and diseased spirituality of modern times.
This collection will appeal to lovers of literature as well as medical professionals—indeed, anyone concerned with medical ethics and the human side of doctoring.

Contributors. Robert Coles, Brock Eide, Carl Elliott, John D. Lantos, Ross McElwee, Richard Martinez, Martha Montello, David Schiedermayer, Jay Tolson, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman

... Read more

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