[percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 93, Issue 1
John E. Riley
jeriley at uark.edu
Sun Jun 17 21:45:35 EDT 2012
I think that's a pretty good connection. I don't remember that phrase from Lanterns on the Levee, but it's been a while since I read it. Good catch! A detail supporting your thesis is that Binx notices the dung beetle while lying wounded on a battlefield (supposedly it's the Korean war though the chronology doesn't quite work out within the time frame of the Moviegoer).
Percy never fought in Korea, of course, but William Alexander Percy did particpate in WWI (in a relief capacity, I believe). In fact, I remember that chapter of Lanterns as containing some superb war-time writing. I think it's probably hard to overestimate Uncle Will's influence on Walker Percy, though sometimes that influence is undoubtedly a reaction AGAINST--not uncommon in "parent-child" relationships, after all. I've always loved the phrase Percy used at the end of the forward for Lanterns, something like "He [Uncle Will] was the most extraordinary man I've ever met, and I owe him a debt I can never repay." I think you get a sense of the depth of emotion Walker felt for the man.
The idea of the search first came to Binx, when he notices the dung beetle, and I think the search is certainly the jumping-off point for the Moviegoer.
By the way, if you're craving more Percy, don't forget his essays, which are collected in two volumes: Message in the Bottle and Signposts in a Strange Land. I would especially recommend The Man on the Train, Metaphor as Mistake, and the Delta Factor from Message.
Good to hear from you! You have a knack for awakening the list from its dung beetle-like slumbers, ha ha.
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
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1. thoughts (janet cantor)
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2012 11:38:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: janet cantor <janetcantor37 at yahoo.com>
Subject: [percy-l] thoughts
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
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I just finished reading Lanterns on the Levee by William Percy, Uncle Will.
What an excellent book. I have been writing reams about it to Jay Tolson, my (reluctant?) new pen pal. For those who don't recognize the name, Tolson is an official biographer for Walker Percy. His book, Pilgrim in the Ruins, is also spectacular.
Before I tell you why I am writing I want to point something out. If my book group had liked The Moviegoer as I did, that would have been the end of it.
But they didn't, so I went on a search, found the Lists, went to Loyola, read all of Percy's novels, read Lost in the Cosmos, the biography and Uncle Will's book and am about to read the Tolson edited letters between Shelby Foote and Percy. So I guess it's good they didn't like The Moviegoer because look at all I would have missed.
At the weekend at Loyola which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Moviegoer, one of my favorite speakers talked for a half hour on that dung beetle at the beginning of the book, where Binx thinks he may be dying and asserts that if he gets out of this alive, he will begin his search.
In Lanterns there is a marvelous phrase - on page 319 - a mind of a complicated being like G-d
"we could no more comprehend than a beetle could comprehend our own."
Now that is a very good way to put it, isn't it?
But then I got to thinking of that half hour talk on the dung beetle. And I figured out that perhaps Walker Percy also like that phrase of his "Uncle Will"? and decided to use it as a kicking off point of his book.
What do you think?
Anyone from Loyola reading this who attended that beetle talk, I would especially appreciate hearing from you.
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