[percy-l] RE: Percy and Coles

Richard Warren RWarren at boultcummings.com
Mon Jan 5 11:27:54 EST 2004

This exchange reminds me of a comment from Percy biographer Patrick Samway, who did a very throrough job of gathering original sources by and about Percy.  He says that he contacted Coles who had done extensive interviews with WP for a long profile that he subsquently turned into one of the early full length books on Walker's writings.  When Fr. Samway asked Coles  if he could see the notes of his interviews, Coles told him that he had not taken any notes.  This was obviously shocking to a biographer as source-conscious as Samway, and when he pressed Coles further as to why he had not taken notes he reportedly replied, "I am a psychologist."

Richard Warren
Nashville, TN

>>> Robert_Pauley at oxy.com 01/02/04 05:43PM >>>
>From Slate online: David Hajdu's Dec. 15 New Republic cover story on the
"inauthenticity of Bruce Springsteen
<http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=giC5nYxSiZli6HQeMmDgch==> " homes in on
the inauthenticity of Robert Coles, the author of a recent book on the
New Jersey bard. Hajdu insinuates that the book's testimonials-from "the
prototypical sort of everyday people that one does not meet every
day"-are too good to be true, and that Coles may have fabricated quotes
from avowed Springsteen fan Walker Percy. 
 From New Republic:
>From article: Many of the people Coles quotes in this book--and in his
other books, come to think of it--talk in folksy bromides that gain
veracity when imagined in the voice of Jimmy Stewart. Personally, I have
never met anyone who thinks or speaks this way.
Similarly, Percy, as Coles quotes him, goes on at startling length about
the Boss. It is well known that Percy once wrote a letter to
Springsteen. The novelist's nephew Will Percy had shown his uncle an
article noting Springsteen's Catholicism in America, the Jesuit weekly,
and the elder Percy sent Springsteen a note expressing his admiration
and inquiring about Bruce's "spiritual journey." (Springsteen did not
attend to the letter until Percy had died, but then wrote to his widow.)
Coles gives us pages of commentary related to Springsteen and his milieu
from Percy, among them: "This guy is his own boss--he's earned the title
[the Boss] every inch of the way: he sings of us while singing to us,
and what you hear (the one you're hearing) is a plain, ordinary guy
soaring way above himself and everyone around him through his voice, and
through the songs he's written.... It sure would be great if some of us,
who talk to ourselves, hearing a singer talking to himself, then to us,
with his own words that he uses to make music--if some of us heard each
other doing our talking with our talking buddy, I call him." Therein is
the ("great") idea for Bruce Springsteen's America.  

The fact that William Carlos Williams and Walker Percy had such
extensive conversations with Robert Coles on the subjects of the New
Jersey pop singers Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, and that those
discussions yielded insights so parallel and neatly suited to Coles's
own take on Springsteen is incredible--utterly incredible. I was not
there to overhear them, of course, and it is impossible to check with
Williams and Percy, or with the late Erikson and Shawn, whom Coles's
other deceased sources quotes in his book's opening sections. But I did
ask Will Percy about the comments on Springsteen that Coles attributes
to his uncle, and he called them "outrageous." Walker Percy "definitely
didn't talk like that," according to his nephew.  

It seems pertinent to note that Coles and Springsteen are friends, and
that the Boss did "the Doc" (his nickname for Coles) a sizable favor
early this year, although Coles mentions neither fact in his book. In
February, Springsteen gave a solo concert in Somerville, Massachusetts
to benefit DoubleTake magazine, which Coles founded and ran. ("It is
completely accurate to say that Bruce Springsteen saved this magazine,"
the publisher, Hugo Barreca, announced prematurely; the journal
subsequently suspended publication).
 -----Original Message-----
From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org 
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Dave Duty
Sent: Friday, January 02, 2004 3:27 PM
To: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Lonergan and Percy?

	Any source of what Coles actually said?  Historically Dr. Coles
is the most honorable of thinkers/writers I know alive today.  
	Most of us are aware of the unanswered letter Dr. Percy sent to
the Boss.  And that the nephew interviwed the Boss in depth about WP.
	I know for a fact that I personally mentioned my affection for
Bruce to WP -- and he said he had heard of him via his grandson(s).  In
the same conversation I said that I thought Sting MIGHT have read and
appreciated WP's work - this was a pure surmise on my part and have not
since read or heard anything from Sting to this effect.  WP also said he
had heard of Sting from the same source but was not sure if he had ever
heard him -- at least that he was aware of.
	For what it is worth.
	Robert_Pauley at oxy.com wrote:

		I'm curious if anyone has comment on recent flap
regarding Bob Coles quoting (misquoting?) Percy on Bruce Springsteen.
Coles claims Percy was a gushing fan of Springsteen's, as Coles is, and
his quotes are taken from memory. So he can't back them up. But quotes
are being challenged by New Republic magazine and by Percy's nephew, who
says they don't sound a thing like Walker. I agree. Quotes sound phony.

		-----Original Message-----
		From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org 
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Nikkibar at aol.com 
		Sent: Friday, January 02, 2004 1:44 PM
		To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org 
		Subject: Re: [percy-l] Lonergan and Percy?

			Dear Rhonda,
			I don't ever recall Walker mentioning someone
named Lonergan in the book meetings. He would from time to time drop a
word ot two about other reading he was up to if he found it interesting,
but this sparks no blip of recognition on my screen. Marcus Smith might
perhaps be a better informant?


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