[percy-l] [External] LITR slow read

Plemmons, Gregory gregory.plemmons at Vanderbilt.Edu
Mon Jul 21 23:56:20 EDT 2014

Hi, y'all,

Below are some thoughts I had on reading this section: 

Percy’s July Third section takes place almost exclusively within the confines of the medical school. After a relatively brief and seemingly uneventful section with Tom’s mother, action/machination returns, this time on an stage, which is often a useful device itself (the play within a play...)

I wondered about Percy’s choice of the Pit as the setting for this section. What do others think? He seems to use it to great effect here. Such amphitheaters are still fairly common in educational settings. How much of what we consider education is entertainment, and vice versa? Does it matter? Did everyone else find Mr. Ives to be quite a sympathetic character? The public inquisition to which he is subjected here is quite humiliating, and yet while Tom initially seems sympathetic, defending Mr. Ive’s defecation and mutism, how much is done out of empathy, and self-recognition? How much is done for spectacle? Tom is quite the critic of how gladiatorial the whole guise of academic “sportsmanship” pretends to be—and a brilliant satirist--yet I feel finds himself completely swept up in the game, at times. Is it humanly possible to remain objective and aware of the Game? (and what would Percy think of Dr. Phil…)

At one point (p. 219) Tom says “students are, if the truth be known, a bad lot.” Does he believe this? In this section, the teachers act just as juvenile—is there hope for future generations, or are we essentially trapped in the human condition? I keep thinking of the young hippie couple with the baby, on Honey Island…are they lost, or simply Hope? 

At one point, Tom has a fleeting moment of insight—“the thing to do, it occurs to me halfway down into the pit, is to concern myself with the patient and what ails him, and forget the rest”—which I think is a shining moment of grace—but it seems to me that the challenge is how to forget the rest—is it humanly possible, without the Gift? Without Grace? 

Although Percy has never been pegged as a traditional Southern writer, at least in the Faulknerian sense of place, I’m always struck by his keen awareness of the nuances of each region and his depiction of Mr. Ives here—Mr. Ives seems curiously displaced, yet is most likely typical Everyman for your average 1960’s middle-class Southerner. Ives, we’re told, is from Tennessee, but lived for forty years in Hartford, Connecticut as an insurance controller before his wife died (shades of Doris/Catherine? self-identification?), and he desires to return home to Tennessee (aptly, Lost Cove--Lost Self?). I’m sure whole essays have been written on this choice, and What is Home, and what is Self (as someone pointed out earlier, the Mall-ification of the South)…but it seemed at least worth a comment here. Can he truly go home? Was he there to begin with? 

Mr. Ives: “his monkey eyes snap”—I couldn’t help but chuckle, and wonder about Percy’s word choice here, having spent the weekend not too far from Dayton, Tennessee—home of the Monkey Trial—(which is not too far from Lost Cove, either—if any of you are wondering, which is a real, not fictional place). Both of those locales are fairly close to Sewanee, where Percy's family had property, I'm told, and where he spent some time. Nearly a hundred years later, evolutionary biology is still being debated here (and nationally) and I continue to be fascinated by the constant intersection/conflict of science and faith. Interestingly, of note, here in Tennessee a rebuttal “play/musical” has been written to counterbalance “Inherit The Wind”--entitled "Inherit The Truth" (and the Creation Museum up the road in Kentucky is erecting a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark). At least in my neck of the woods, it seems we need Percy’s voice more than ever…the center cannot hold...


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From: Percy-L [percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] on behalf of RHONDA MCDONNELL [rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com]
Sent: Monday, July 21, 2014 5:54 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [External] [percy-l] LITR slow read

I'm looking forward to reading Greg's thoughts on the July 3rd section of the novel this week.

In the mean time, no one has stepped forward for the July 4th section, so why don't we all just post whatever random thoughts we might be having on that section next week (the last week of July), without waiting for a discussion leader's post?

Janet will wrap the novel up during the first full week of August.


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