Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Off Topic----Walker Percy, Classic American and Southern Literary Voice For the Modern and Post-Modern Age

Walker Percy [1916-1990], is recognized as a unique American literary voice from Louisiana.  Writing from a a sensibility he shared with Flannery O'Connor, Shelby Foote and Truman Capote. Deeply Roman Catholic and deeply questioning, Percy's life dramatically unfolded throughout the 20th century.  He was 13 when his father committed suicide; his mother died in a one car accident two years later, an event that Percy viewed as a suicide. Walker and his two younger brothers, Roy and Phin, moved to Mississippi where their cousin, a bachelor lawyer and poet, became their guardian.  Percy's parents had raised him to be an agnostic; William, his guardian,
 was  a member of a liberal Protestant church. William Percy introduced Walker and his brothers to the regional writers and poets his own age. Shelby Foote became a lasting friend. Later, Walker  and his wife would both join the Roman Catholic Church and they were confirmed with their children.

Many years of writing and rewriting,in 1961 Percy published The Moviegoer, his first novel; it won the National Book Award of that year. He described it as a story of "a young man who had all the advantages of a cultivated old-line southern family including an appreciation the arts and sciences but feels himself quite alienated from both worlds, the old South and the post World War Two America.
Time magazine included it among the best English language written between 1923 to 2005".  Other list compilers agreed. The Moviegoer contains elements of both existentialism and poetry.

In The Moviegoer  Binx Bolling, a young stock-broker in post- Korean War  lives in New Orleans and vaguely understands that the traditions of the Old South are in decline. Included in these traditions are established families and social relationships. Bolling continually day dreams, has troubling establishing deep friendships and is quite content to view life and relationships explained through film.  Spiritually he is depressed and unengaged.  During Mardi Gras begins a journey to find for himself something other than big screen stories. Bolling wanders through parades, the French Quarter and then travels to Chicago and back to the Gulf Coast. Family members and occasionally friends superficially intrude into his thoughts and observations. In several ways, he travels the same philosophic and religious path that Jack Kerouac treads in On The Road.  Percy's The Moviegoer is more sedate, less adventurous than Kerouac's On The Road. Percy's The Moviegoer shares with Kerouac's On The Road a narrative in which the main character is much more compelling than the country through they pass and the journey which they take.

At it's core, The Moviegoer presents an individual numb from war, allowing Hollywood movies explain life, roles and relationships to him. He is satisfied with that explanation bcause it protects him from disappoints and risks in relationships and his own self-awareness.

Percy's works include The Last Gentleman [1966], Love In The Ruins [1971], The Second Coming [1980] and The Thanatos Syndrome [1987]. He also published non-fiction works on the philosophy of existentialism, symbolism and communication theory. He taught at Loyola University in New Orleans, helped found the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and received the University of Notre Dames' Laetare Medal in recognition for his contribution to the arts and science, the ideals of the Catholic Church and humanity. The National Endowment for the Humanities chose him as the Thomas Jefferson lecturer of 1989; his lecture was entitled 'The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind."

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