[percy-l] dead

chaslow53 at aol.com chaslow53 at aol.com
Sat Jul 30 22:29:15 EDT 2005

Well, it is obviously true that the list is not as active as it once was.  I think there are many of us (we exchange private e-mails from time to time, where you smarter folk can't catch us) who are fans of the novels and don't really have a great interest in the philosophy.  I'm not sure what WP would have thought of us, but there it is.
And even of those of us interested in the novels, there appear to be two groups.  The academics are ever eager to trace sources and influences, but the "layfolk" are more interested in using the novels to help answer WP's "ordinary Thursday afternoon at 4:00" conundrum: how is it that we can spend the morning reading philosophy and history and theology and fiction and walk away from it with no idea at all of how we are to lead our lives after lunch?
Two historical/literary thoughts present themselves here.
* William Buckley is reported to have said that he read Moby Dick at 55 and it changed his life.  I cannot vouch for that, either that he said it or that it changed his life.  I speak here as one who edifies, not with authority.  What I can say is that I read The Moviegoer at 52 and it changed my life.  I am interested in an exchange of ideas, not necessarily restricted to that sort of reaction, of what the Percy novels mean in the individual lives of those who read and contemplate them.  To the extent that the novels broaden our understanding of the "dark journey," they are valuable; they become even more valuable when we understand how they affect others as well.
* John Henry Newman was the author of A Grammar of Assent, The Idea of a University and a thousand papers on points of Church history and doctrine so austere and obscure that we are staggered to this day to contemplate his output.  Yet when he was made a Cardinal, he chose as his motto something that showed a side of him that none of us today would associate with him: Cor ad cor loquitur, the heart speaks to the heart.  So, too, Walker Percy wrote novels whose message, whether in Binx's relationship with his mother or in Tom Moore's relationship with his second (Presbyterian!) wife or in Lancelot's pipe-clanking with is fellow inmate, could not be clearer: cor ad cor loquitur.  
I'm not saying that this should move us to sentimental essays based not on WP's novels but on sociological flights with only the remotest connection.  I am just saying that there are a lot of us who read and treasure the novels because of their expression of what Binx experienced as "God's importunate grace" and discussions which are too philosophical or too technical are not going to grab us, because we are neither philosophers nor academics.  That's why you don't hear from that group too very often.
Damn, I guess I am intent on retaining my amateur status!
Chuck Lowry
Brooklyn, New York
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