Walker Percy

Walker Percy

Walker Percy

Walker Percy


With many other readers, I discovered The Moviegoer in 1961, and was delighted. Rereading it a quarter-century later, the delight returns, but perhaps somewhat darkened by intimations in the novel of the moral and religious obsessions that have made each subsequent fiction by Walker Percy rather more problematic than the one before. As a storyteller, Percy chooses to follow the downward path to wisdom, perhaps at the expense of his stories. The Last Gentleman (1966) had not abandoned all the narrative concerns of The Moviegoer, but Love in the Ruins (1971) resorts to apocalyptic yearnings, and Lancelot (1977) seems to address a saving remnant. The Second Coming (1980) is a wholly tendentious narrative and hardly seems to be by the author of The Moviegoer. Acclaimed as a Southern prophet, Percy may have become precisely that. There is a curious progression in his novels' closing passages that is revelatory of a metamorphosis from the language of story to the urgencies that transcend art:

I watch her walk toward St. Charles, cape jasmine held against her cheek, until my brothers and sisters call out behind me.

(The Moviegoer)

"Wait," he shouted in a dead run. The Edsel paused, sighed, and stopped. Strength flowed like oil into his muscles and he ran with great joyous ten-foot antelope bounds. The Edsel waited for him.

(The Last Gentleman)

To bed we go for a long winter's nap, twined about each other as the ivy twineth not under a bush or in a car or on the floor . . .

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