[percy-l] Unearthed: Walker Percy’s Fan Letter to Bruce Springsteen

Jim Forest jhforest at gmail.com
Thu Oct 24 10:55:02 EDT 2013

Unearthed: Walker Percy’s Fan Letter to Bruce Springsteen

1/22/2009 2:29:47 PM

by Jeff Severns Guntzel <http://www.utne.com/bios/jeff-severns-guntzel.aspx>

Tags: Spirituality <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=Spirituality>, Bruce
Springsteen <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+Bruce+Springsteen>, Walker
Percy <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+Walker+Percy>, Flannery
O'Connor <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+Flannery+O%26%2339%3bConnor>
, Catholicism <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+Catholicism>,
Correspondence <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+Correspondence>,
DoubleTake <http://www.utne.com/search.aspx?tags=+DoubleTake>

[image: Bruce Springsteen Berlin Concert]Buried in the Utne Reader library
is nearly every issue of the sorely missed DoubleTake magazine. That’s
where I stumbled across this letter from Walker
Percy<http://www.ratzingerfanclub.com/Percy/> to
Bruce Springsteen in 1989. When Springsteen finally responded, in 1993, it
was to Percy’s widow. It’s a charming and intriguing correspondence that
touches on the Catholicism and work of both men. DoubleTake ran the letters
with a discussion between Springsteen and Percy’s

Here’s the exchange of letters:

*Feb 23, 1989*

*Dear Mr. Springsteen—*

*This is a fan letter—of sorts. I’ve always been an admirer of yours, for
your musicianship, and for being one of the few sane guys in your field.*

*The immediate occasion is that my favorite nephew, Will Percy, has even a
higher opinion of you. He is a level-headed perceptive young lawyer and
generally knows what he is talking about.*

*Of particular interest is from learning—from an article in America, the
Jesuit weekly—that you are Catholic. If this is true, and I am too, it
would appear that the two of us are rarities in our professions: you as a
post-modern musician, I as a writer, a novelist and philosopher. That—and
your admiration for Flannery O’Connor. She was a dear friend of mine,
though she was a much more heroic Catholic than I. The whole time I knew
her, she was dying of Lupus Erythematosus, a fatal and extremely unpleasant
disease. A prime example of her faith: she was participating in a seminar
with some modish ex-Catholics like Mary McCarthy. Mary, thinking to be
generous toward the church, said something like: “Well, it is true, some of
the Catholic rituals, like the Eucharist, are good symbols.” To which
Flannery, who hadn’t said a word, responded with a single sentence: “I say
that it it’s only a symbol, to hell with it.” You will recognize Flannery’s

*This is to say only that I am most interested in your spiritual journey,
and if there is any other material about it, I’d be obliged if you will
tell me.*

*Unfortunately, I have cancer and am taking radiation for it. I am far from
well and am not able yet to receive visitors.*

*Since I don’t know your address I am handing this to Will who says he
knows where to send it.*

*All my best wishes for your superb career.*


*Walker Percy*

+ + +


*Dear Mrs. Percy,*

*This is a letter so long in coming I’m almost embarrassed to write, but
I’ve gotten to know Will a little bit and he’s encouraged me on, so here we

*A few years back when I received Dr. Percy’s letter, I wasn’t very
familiar with his work…my memory is that [his] leter was written on a
yellow legal pad and, as is mine, his handwriting was not the easiest to
decipher. It was a passionate letter about the comforts and difficulties of
reconciling the inner life of a sophisticated man, a writer’s life, with
the Catholic faith. I recall Dr. Percy’s explaining how one had brought
depth and meaning to the other for him. He was curious to know how I
handled my issues of faith….*

*It is now one of my great regrets that we didn’t get to correspond. A
while after receiving Dr. Percy’s letter, I picked up “The Moviegoer,” its
toughness and beauty have stayed with me. The loss and search for faith and
meaning have been at the core of my own work for most of my adult life. I’d
like to think that perhaps that is what Dr. Percy heard and was what moved
him to write me. Those issues are still what motivate me to sit down, pick
up my guitar and write. Today, I would have had a lot to put in that

*I hope this letter finds you well and that someday when I’m down in your
neck of the woods or you’re up in mine we can meet. I’d love to have you
come to a show, you might like it!*


*Bruce Springsteen*

*P.S. I’m in Australia at the moment and I’ve just begun “The Message in
the Bottle.”*

Read more:
*** * *

*All Is Grace: a biography of Dorothy Day:*

*Saint George and the Dragon*
For the Peace from Above:**
a Resource Book on War, Peace and Nationalism*

Jim's books: www.jimandnancyforest.com/books/
Jim & Nancy web site: www.jimandnancyforest.com
Photo collections: www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/collections/
On Pilgrimage blog: http://jimandnancyonpilgrimage.blogspot.com/
A Tale of Two Kidneys blog: http://ataleof2kidneys.blogspot.com/
In Communion site: www.incommunion.org

*Jim & Nancy Forest*
Kanisstraat 5 / 1811 GJ Alkmaar / The Netherlands

* * *
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