[percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 94, Issue 2

kathena1 kathena1 at aol.com
Sun Jul 8 15:19:37 EDT 2012

And, those of you who have read Tolson's biography know this, that this
subject was particularly important to Percy (as we see this theme often
repeated in his novels) because when he was young (college?) he took a trip
to Germany in the 1930s and greatly admired the enthusiasm and devotion to a
cause of the Hitler Youth.  Later, when he saw how it all played out, he saw
how mistaken he had been, how this kind of sentimentalism can be quite evil.


-----Original Message-----
From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of marcus at loyno.edu
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 1:31 PM
To: Percy list
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 94, Issue 2

Janet Cantor writes, "On page 128 Father Smith asks, "Do you know where
tenderness leads?" And he answers,..." to the gas chamber"."

I think Percy told somone he was paraphasing a remark by Flannery O'Connor.

I argued with Percy about this epigraph more than once.  My reply was that
tenderness (romantic secular sentimentality, kitsch, etc.) may have been
involved in the cultural roots of the Holocaust, but plain old nasty
anti-semitism burrowing through centuries of the "Christian West" was the
primary agent driving the catastrophe.  I don't recall that we ever
concluded our discussion.

By the way, the original title of Lady Chatterly's Lover was, of course,

Marcus Smith

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> Today's Topics:
>    1. The Thanatos Syndrome - some thoughts (janet cantor)
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> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2012 19:22:20 -0700 (PDT)
> From: janet cantor <janetcantor37 at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [percy-l] The Thanatos Syndrome - some thoughts
> To: percy lists <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
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> If you have not read this book, do not read this. If you have read it 
> and preferably twice, see what you think of my musings so far.
> I am constructing my discussion of The Thanatos Syndrome for a 
> discussion of it with my book group in September early.
> ?I am discovering new things as I prepare.
> The first time I read it I wanted to take a scalpel to it and knew 
> just where. The second time, when I read it more carefully to take 
> notes and construct what I will use, I found very little to edit out. 
> The repetitions and over lengthy scenes this time, instead of being 
> annoying, were funny, and okay with me. They were there for a reason. 
> Or so it seemed to me.
> One example. I kept seeing similar lines interjected page after page 
> about a shaft of sunlight going through the trees that dissolved into 
> the dark underbrush and variations of that. On  first reading I 
> thought they were gratuitous and unoriginal and even annoying in their 
> repetition.
> On second reading I came up with a perfect rationale for them. Light 
> dissolving into or being swallowed up by darkness. White and black, as 
> in whites and negroes in the south, Well, that's obvious. But that's not
> On a fishing trip, when Van Dorn wants to catch a certain fish and 
> asks why they don't trim some of the branches, Tom tells him then the 
> sunfish would leave. "You don't dare mess with light and shade." Tom says.
> On page 128 Father Smith asks, "Do you know where tenderness leads?" 
> And he answers,..." to the gas chamber".
> The do gooders of this book have the best of intentions but, as the 
> line says, every pre conceived utopia needs a police state to keep it
> So in my mind I took all of these shafts of light and reflections of 
> silvery light fighting to get through and all those darknesses 
> swallowing them up, to represent  the forces of good and evil. Percy 
> knew what he was doing. By inserting these phrases so often out of 
> nowhere into his descriptive passages he was subliminally undergirding 
> his main theme. People must not try to play G-d. They must respect 
> free will of individuals because no matter what good intentions they 
> have, in the end they interfere with people's personhood. No matter 
> what mistakes people make while using free will, that is better than 
> do gooders trying to manipulate the world to be a more perfect one. 
> All tenderness leads to the gas chambers.
> And by having it all come from Father Smith, the moralist, to Tom, our 
> everyman, the reader's surrogate, and thus from Percy, psychiatrist to 
> the world, he is, not subtly this time, in his last novel, making his
> At the end of the book is that wonderful paragraph where Percy lets us 
> know that the? 20th century was the most murderous in history and 
> where was G-d. All He had to do was stand  back and not interfere and 
> allow man to do what he did and the devil could laugh while it went 
> on. Light fights the dark and the dark seems to be winning.
> I will play for my book group the last three minutes of Percy's talk 
> to Notre Dame so they can hear him in person giving the warning.
> Another great joke is that in any mystery part of the tension comes 
> from delaying the solution. So all through as Tom is constantly 
> anxious to get going, Father Smith keeps saying "one more thing". The 
> first time, I found it irritating. This time I found it very funny and 
> it added to the tension as well. Or Dr. Comeaux grabs his arm as he's 
> ready to bolt and keeps him back. Lucy, Van Dorn, so many others keep Tom
trapped for a time.
> I will read lots of things that I consider funny. And show them 
> examples of Percy's vivid descriptive passages, his interest in 
> language, Hudeen, a marvelous creation.
> My overall goal is not to discuss the story or  the characters, but to 
> talk about Percy, his writing, why it works on me, his themes. I 
> intend to show how this book represents a recapitulation of the 
> history of his whole thinking life. Scientist,? Psychiatrist,?
> philosopher, semioticist, drinker, Catholic, moralist, and finally 
> story teller.
> Two things left to ponder over. I am not convinced that the book is 
> improved by making the do gooders sex offenders. It would have been a 
> more ambitious book if they were more ambiguously wrong instead of 
> obviously evil. I did love the way they were all placed in their jobs 
> at the end, especially the ape teaching the person how to communicate
> And, speaking of the end, I have a theory of what that "Well, well, well"
> means, but I don't know yet if I'm correct.
> In September's discussion, I will tape it to hear how it sounds.
> Janet Cantor
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