[percy-l] Slomo Etc

Charles Cowherd charlescowherd at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 10 15:52:24 EDT 2014

   I loved the video of "Slomo", gives a modern example of the spiritual
crisis/ malaise at the heart of Percy's work. I am thinking about the
contrast between his mantra "Do what you want" to the previously mentioned
quotation/ repetition in Percy's work from the story of the Prodigal Son:
"And he came to himself". THUS: "Do what you are". Just a thought. 
   Had less joy with the second chapter of LITR. I had just read "The Second
Coming" and some of the similarities between the novels (as well as the
others) become kind of grating. But we will see. 
   I am on tap for the 3rd chapter, which I will deliver on the 13th, if I
am reading the schedule correctly. It's a much shorter chapter.
All my best, 

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Today's Topics:

   1. Re: Love in the Ruins 'slow read' -- chapter 2 -- "July
      First" (Karl M. Terrell)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2014 19:21:19 +0000
From: "Karl M. Terrell" <kterrell at stokeswagner.com>
To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion"
	<percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>, "Percy-L@" <"Literary
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Love in the Ruins 'slow read' -- chapter 2 --
	"July First"
<da7dc19bc81e4be1855fbc7e8295dbe2 at BN1PR04MB552.namprd04.prod.outlook.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

This is, I think, a satisfying explanation.  It's also what Percy followed
in his own life, isn't it?

After his recovery from tuberculosis, he turned his back on medicine as a
career and, in your words, 'got off the stage and got quiet and grabbed a
wife and lived a life of quiet joys or whatever came his way' .... For him,
it was a life of study and writing, in Covington, La., which I understand he
liked because it was "not a place."  I've read also, people in Covington
would ask him what he did for a living, and when he said, "I'm a writer," no
one could accept just that as an answer, and I'm guessing too many questions
were asked that he didn't really want to explain.  Eventually, he took to
responding - "I don't do anything."  Most, he reported, were quite content
with that answer.

I saw a great, short documentary (linked below) about a fellow who did the
same thing, in his own way .... Dr. John Kitchins - now known as Slomo - a
successful neurologist/psychiatrist in San Diego, originally from N.C., who
made a lot of money, lived in what he called a mansion, an owner of
expensive sports cars, an exotic animal farm, etc., etc.

He met, one day, a 90 year old man who appeared healthy and satisfied, and
asked him how he had achieved this.  The reply: "Do what you want."

For the next 20 years, though, Dr. Kitchins continued to live "miserably,"
he said, in what he called "the rational world."  At the end of each day,
driving home in his 12-cylinder BMW, he would ask himself how much he had
advanced himself that day spiritually and how much he had advanced himself
financially.  Increasingly, he was advancing only on the latter front.

Taking the lesson from the old man to "do what you want," he gave up his
practice and his possessions - save for a small apartment - and today, Slomo
as he now calls himself, spends most of his waking hours roller-blading on
the boardwalk in San Diego, balancing with arms outstretched and one leg in
the air behind him, which he likens it to flying (and provides something of
a neurological explanation for this).  He spends his days flying ... which,
in dreams, is interpreted usually as signifying happiness.

If you've seen him there, or if you watch the video, your first thought will
be that he is crazy.  He seems, instead, to have made a satisfactory
adjustment to the comic and the religious (or spiritual, for Slomo speak of
it in the latter way, not in any kind of 'church' way).



From: Percy-L [mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Lauren
Stacy Berdy
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2014 12:31 PM
To: Percy-L@
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Love in the Ruins 'slow read' -- chapter 2 -- "July


He explains an idea from reading K, concerning the seemingly disconnected
ideas of the comic and the religious.  Of LITR, he states: "In this novel, I
was less interested in a search, in progressing from one category to the
other, than I was in the exercise of the comic and the religious."

Explainer's are part of the comedy, Dr. Percy knew this so well.

We are all being part of the broad comedy routine we call living.

The comedy comes into the sweep of his thought thru the door our our own
here goes.........

as I understand from reading a selective reading ( very) of Kierkegaard and
a long pull of  the good doctors diagnosis for all of us.

The comedy is ourselves..........we ( us) are both actors and our own best
audience. The doers and observers of our own actions and decisions.We lack a
standpoint to view ourselves. To be fully revealed and fully known. We
become the audience for our own tragic existence. WE ARE UNABLE TO GET OFF
DR. Percy is the ironist who is bringing the play  to our attention thru Dr.
More. He is not judging he is if you will the "producer"/Play write of this
play his "novel"

so it is hilarious that we don't get off the stage and get quiet and "grab a
wife and live a life" of quiet joys or whatever comes our way.
Dr. More does just that at the end.
(The other (Ellen) will help him revel himself to himself)

Frankly, for me everything else in the book is helping us to tell  our
story. Our human story.

I think the trick here is to see the humor of ourselves and to pony up a bit
by examining our own everyday lives as we move thru space and time.("on this
spinning cinder") After all he was a excellent diagnostician wasn't he?

Thank you very much for this excellent dialogue.

Lauren Stacy Berdy

 On 7/6/2014 11:36 PM, Karl M. Terrell wrote:

Hello everyone.  I am picking up the baton on the slow read, with these
opening comments on chapter 2.

Disclaimers: One, I am not an academic - just someone who has for many years
loved Percy's prose, his ideas and observations on the human condition.
Two, while I have read close to everything he's written, most of my reading
was done quite a few years ago (I recently re-read The Moviegoer, though).
And three, it's been 20 or more years since I last read LITR .... and, on
this go-round, I haven't read past chapter 2 yet.  I am reading this 'as we
go,' and almost as if reading it for the first time.

I welcome any insights my few observations and questions might generate,
from amateurs like me, and from those who've really studied Percy.

I like the comment someone made recently, not to 'make a campsite' of LITR,
but to think of it as a trail.  I thought about that a few times while
reading this chapter, as I found myself trying to keep a handle on the main
plot-line - turning back a few pages every so often, looking for plot-line
clues maybe I might've missed - and just generally wondering where the story
is going.

In the end, I guess, plot/story line was not really Percy's forte; not what
he was about.  Agree?  Disagree?  In any event, what carries me along is the
wonderful writing and his observations, the vivid characters, and the
descriptions of his world (real world Louisiana, set in an imagined future).

I also found myself wondering: how reliable is our narrator?  I noted, for
example, at least two passages where the characters More interacts with
don't see the vines (Ruby the bartender at p. 88 and Max at p. 115 ["What
was that about the vines?"] - Farrar, Straus, 1991 printing).  In other
words, how much of what is presented in the story, as told to us by More, is
(so to speak) actually happening?  At one or two points I felt a tinge of
annoyance thinking about this, but by the end of the chapter I found myself
enjoying the tension created by this uncertainty - Is he really being shot
at by a sniper?  Is a Bantu uprising, or worse, really in the works?  See,
end of subchapter 12, the conversation with Victor: "Now everything's got to
go and everybody loses." / I rise unsteadily.  "Everybody?" / ... "Not you,
Doc.  All you got to do is move in with your mama.  She'll do for you."

Speaking of Victor, the opening scene in subchapter 13 - where Victor
assists our addled hero through the door of the Little Napoleon,
encountering Leroy Ledbetter - is a brilliant exposition of the subtleties
of racial mores and customs in the Jim Crow world.

So, what's the larger goal or idea of this novel, beyond the spinning of a
yarn?  I'm aware of the Kierkegaard influence, so I googled that, and came
across an interview Percy gave in 1974 - "Walker Percy Talks about
Kierkegaard" (Journal of Religion).  My knowledge of Kierkegaard is very
limited (covered in a few philosophy courses taken many years ago), and so I
bring this up only to invite comment from those more knowledgeable in this
connection.  My limited understanding is of K's role as the father of
existentialism, and of his radical emphasis on the individual, distinct from
and in reaction to the more systematic (right word?) approach to philosophy
by Hegel.  The search for the true self seems to be Percy's point of
connection with K.  Except, Percy said the following in the interview about

He explains an idea from reading K, concerning the seemingly disconnected
ideas of the comic and the religious.  Of LITR, he states: "In this novel, I
was less interested in a search, in progressing from one category to the
other, than I was in the exercise of the comic and the religious."

Not sure I fully understand this concept, and would be interested in any
thoughts one might have.  I get the comic end of things, but what is Percy
really referring to when he terms More as a Bad Catholic? (Fourth
disclaimer: I'm not a Catholic, and in fact count myself as agnostic - I
believe my interest in Percy nonetheless stems from his emphasis on the
search for meaning at the individual level, rather than at the
church/man-made level ... and, I like the skewering of the Englishman
wife-Doris runs off with, who dabbles in Oriental mysticism.  In the
interview on K, he talks in the same vein about the communal hippies of the
late 60s, early 70s).



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