[percy-l] A New Member and a Question

Gray, Rich RGray at montreat.edu
Wed Oct 7 12:06:57 EDT 2015

My introduction to Percy's hurricane/disaster theory came in reading "The Loss of the Creature": "It [authentic life] may be recovered in time of national disaster."

Again in "The Man on the Train," Percy says, "Do we have here a clue to the secret longing for the Bomb and the Last Days?  Does the eschatological thrill conceal the inner prescience that it will take a major catastrophe to break the partition?" [presumably between alienation and authenticity].

Yet in Lancelot, the hurricane seems to spur Lance Lamar to seek revenge on his wife and her friends.  Or is the hurricane an agent ultimately of Lance's recovery?

Rich Gray

From: Percy-L <percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org> on behalf of Karl M. Terrell <kterrell at stokeswagner.com>
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 9:14 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] A New Member and a Question

It was wonderful to read Isaacson's NYT piece on Percy's hurricane theory.  Wonderful to see our man discussed in the popular media.  Beyond that observation, I have nothing really to add to the interesting question posed from the academic perspective, except to say ... more power to you, and best wishes.

For what it's worth from a layman reader, the good doctor's observations of Wednesday afternoon despair in juxtaposition to Earth-rattling events are at the heart of what drew me to Percy in the first place.  I then recall someone on this list once responding to a heavily worded question, which asked, essentially ... what draws us to WP?  The response: "The charm of the man."  Perfect, I thought.  It captured the beauty of his writing, those marvelous sentences that flowed and flowed into our thoughts, and the grandeur of his ideas expressed with the grace and humor of a certain class of Southerner now disappearing from view.

My recommendation to all, come next weekend, is to locate Percy's remarks on the virtue of a mint julep.  But don't just read about it; make one and pour it into a tumbler,  and then sit on your porch and focus for awhile.

Karl Montague Terrell

Sent from my iPhone

On Oct 6, 2015, at 6:41 PM, Rachel Humphries <mrs.rachel.humphries at gmail.com<mailto:mrs.rachel.humphries at gmail.com>> wrote:

I've actually noticed that Percy has been popping up more frequently lately, at least in the NYT. There was the article, linked to on this list, on Percy's "Theory of Hurricanes" a month or two ago, and he gets name-dropped in the discussion of the "novel of ideas" in the Book Review last week.
I've been out of academia for a long, long time (to continue a theme), but I might be able to comment on his prominence in the "culture at large." It seems to me that Percy is still quite well-known, and studied, within certain spheres of interest: literature & religion, Southern/regional literature, literature & philosophy. However, outside of those, it does seem that his work does seem to grow more obscure with the passage of time. I haven't noticed that it comes with a reassessment of the quality of his work; it's not like people are saying "Meh, it wasn't as good as we thought it was." When it is discussed, it is with respect; it is just discussed less.
This, too, is merely perception.  I have no concrete evidence besides the total mystification of that guy at the gym who wanted to know what I was reading on the stationary bike (The Moviegoer). In pursuit of your evidence, it might be interesting to see if Percy is increasingly "siloed"--in other words, if he is mentioned most often by people who are also discussing another specific topic (Catholicism, e.g.).
Rachel Humphries

On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 3:15 PM, Michael Kobre <kobrem at queens.edu<mailto:kobrem at queens.edu>> wrote:
After a long, long delay, I’m happy to join the Percy-L community.  I’m a professor and Chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte.  More to the point though, I’m the author of Walker Percy’s Voices which was published a long, long time ago (there’s that theme again) by the University of Georgia Press.  In my other life as a scholar, before spending the last 15 years as co-director of our MFA program in creative writing, I focused primarily on a Bakhtinian interpretation of Percy’s work and tried to hear in his prose the sort of polyphony of voices that Bakhtin discusses.  Since then, when I’ve had the opportunity to write about Percy, I’ve tried to examine the parallels and connections between Percy and Bruce Springsteen (who’s a lot louder and more famous than Bakhtin).

I’m working now, however, on an essay that examines the changing fortunes of the literary reputations of Percy and Richard Yates respectively.  Yates’ signature novel Revolutionary Road had been nominated for the National Book Award alongside The Moviegoer, and both books—at least on a superficial level—occupy a similar territory, following the lives of their protagonists in the new suburban landscapes of America (although to very different effects).  Yates felt that his loss of the National Book Award dramatically altered the trajectory of his career; the sales of his books were at best uneven, and by the end of his life virtually all of his work was out of print.  And yet, over the last decade or so, Yates’ work has enjoyed a significant revival.  Everything is back in print, and Revolutionary Road is now seen as a classic work of post-war American fiction and is—here’s an important component of my argument—a canonical work within the discipline of creative writing in particular.

By contrast however, it seems as though Percy’s work, which was far more celebrated when both Percy and Yates were alive, receives less attention these days.  Yes, there remains a loyal audience of Percy fans (I’m reaching out to many of you right now), but his work isn’t taught and discussed in the same way that Yates’ work is now.

At least that’s my perception.  And this is one reason why I’m reaching out to all of you.  Do you agree that Percy’s work and reputation have become a little more obscure to the culture at large?  If so, can you think of evidence that supports this perception?  Any thoughts on this or help will be much appreciated.

Michael Kobre, MFA, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of English and Creative Writing
Queens University of Charlotte
1900 Selwyn Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28226

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