[percy-l] LITR Slow Read- July 4th

RHONDA MCDONNELL rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com
Tue Jul 8 00:00:18 EDT 2014


The essay "The Modern Malaise" (in Signposts in a Strange Land) is actually the text of an address Percy gave at a Chekhov festival.  I didn't know that off the top of my head, by the way. Instead, I did a quick search of his non-fiction in my kindle editions.  If you can get access to that, it will answer your question (sort of anyway).

I don't know that Percy felt guilt over not practicing medicine. I think he saw himself as being onto a cure for what troubles modern humanity.  He had his chances to be involved as a consultant in psychiatric clinical studies, but he only took that opportunity once. It's mentioned briefly in the biographies. On the other hand, his TB wouldn't have allowed him to practice medicine, most likely.  He did a lot of resting and relapsed a couple of times.  So maybe it sort of fell into the "road not taken" category. Half of his protagonists are doctors (or on the way to it) but the other half are lawyers.  I'm not sure if that's significant or not.

Any time an author chooses first person narration, some amount of unreliability enters the equation. I recently was involved in a debate regarding how reliable Jack Burden of All the King's Men is.  Tom, I think, is more unreliable than Jack, by a good measure.

I was struck again by Tom's vision of the "maculate Christ." I had remembered that sequence of events as having actually happened--Leroy and Victor helping him walk after finding him drunk in a ditch. Instead it's a flight of fancy for Tom.  Wishful thinking on his part that stands in sharp contrast to the brilliantly described racial dynamics that are actually occurring (thanks for pointing that out, Karl). Tom's musing is also revelatory regarding his messiah complex.  He's out to heal the world, but he may be as sick as everyone else--maybe even sicker.


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