[percy-l] Janet Cantor tackles the next section for the slow read of The Second Coming
honeyjbc at gmail.com
Thu Aug 25 22:52:48 EDT 2016
Section V - takes us from pages 122 to 199.
We leave Allison as she was preparing her way to freedom from the institution.
This part is all Will Barrett.
Jack Curl, another marvelous Percy character, the preacher who is
supposed to conduct the ceremony for Will's daughter, Leslie's
wedding, has a wish that Will spend some of his inheritance in a good
deed scheme of Marion's, a retirement village and faith community.
Will's dead wife has left him millions.
This entire section is musings on death and life and death in life. It
bounces back and forth without warning between the present semi
oblivion of Will and evocations of his father's suicide attempt.
What is the past, is there a present and will there be a future? His
daughter, Leslie's impending marriage also stirs questions.
But the odd thing is as Will is asking these "deep" questions. Percy
is whimsical in his writing so that the reader smiles, and even laughs
along the way. There's a whole paragraph on funerals and why people
like going to them on page 124 - such a solemn subject - but with the
adorable Percy touch.
Will wonders why he suddenly sees things more clearly than he has.
Something has given him leave to live in the present - bottom of page
123. I am guessing it is Allison is entering his subconscious.
When Percy was a teenager his parents took the family on a vacation in
Germany, Hitler was in power but it was early days. The teenaged Percy
was captivated by a Hitler Youth boy with his dashing looks and
excellent uniform and pride. When Percy got home and later realized
the horrors of what that youth really represented, Percy was haunted
by his impressionistic self. It was an obsessive memory and he felt
ashamed. In The Thanatos Syndrome a character spends a lot of time on
a similar episode as Percy tried to atone for his gullibility.
Here in this book we have on Page 132 again some thoughts on this
subject in a smaller example. It ends with a letter Will has memorized
from a Roman Centurian who expresses the hope that the deeds they do
are for a higher goal. It is fascinating to read this letter in light
of this incident in Percy's life.
Once again Will wonders if the Jews' leaving is a sign. The way this
is written, it is strangely funny at the same time as it is ominous.
Will continues to look for answers. He questions the chaplain about
religion and belief. The scene keeps shifting in Will's mind without
any warning to the reader. from a conversation he is trying to engage
himself in and reminders of his father's event with that shotgun.
Looking for answers Will keeps going back to trying to figure out what
his father was trying to tell him. There is much thought about the
shells in the gun. Will figures out that his father's plan was to
shoot Will and then himself. He failed on both counts, but his father
finally did himself in later.
Will figures out that his father was trying to prevent his son from
suffering as he did in a world where there is no reason to go on.
Will decides, he won't go that way. He will seek answers.
This may relate to Percy's good acquaintance with so many people
around him committing suicide and Percy decided that it was not going
to happen to him.
Lewis Peckham, the golf pro wonders if Will needs a psychiatrist
because he seems depressed over the loss of his wife. He invites Will
to listen to Beethoven. This is not inviting to Will and he makes the
excuse that he has to return to the wedding preparations.
Plans are being made for the wedding and all parties to the occasion are there.
We met Kitty and her husband in the last section when they visited
Allison. It turns out that Kitty was an old "flame" of Will's. Kitty
was a character in The Last Gentlemen.
Kitty flirts with Will and arranges to meet him later for perhaps a
rendezvous. (Oy, she is Allison's mother.)
She tells Will. "You must meet my daughter. I know you could help her."
Will feels bad that he wasn't good father, what with his fade outs,
whatever is causing them. While his daughter, Leslie, is not happy
about those episodes, she tells him, "You always turned up when I
He takes his leave saying goodbye and taking a long look at her. This
Leslie is deep in preparation for her wedding. Kitty has left for her
rendezvous with Will.
Resolving to meet Kitty, he falls down some steps on his way. Ewell
McBee confronts him and harangues him about what a snob he is. Will is
bleeding and McBee doesn't notice because he is wrapped up in his
diatribe. He wants Will to invest in his blue movies.There will be a
couple of girls there for them, one is Jewish. (The Jews haven't all
Will thinks again about his father.
Will has an epiphany. Maybe his father was right in choosing to kill him.
Okay, Will gets an idea.
Kitty had mentioned Dr. Sutter Vaught, someone we meet in The Last
Gentleman, the other novel involving Will Barrett.
Will writes two letters. One is to Lewis Peckham that he would love to
come listen to music with him. And the other to Vaught with a
complicated series of instructions for him to carry out if he hasn't
heard from Will within three weeks. One wonders what Sutter will make
of this goofy letter.
Will is going to put G-d to the test. If He exists and cares, he will
give a sign.
Thus ends part V.
Some things I liked:
Reading these pages, one is tempted to write about every sentence.
There is so much wonderful observation, philosophy, wit and beautiful
characterization, and the writing is masterful all the way.
I will only choose to notice a few things.
Here we go again. Page 122 - bright sunlight races like quicksilver
around the beveled glass of a door. Page 130 - A shaft of light
strikes his hand refracted by a prism. This kind of thing repeats
often in Percy as I mentioned last time.
Again on Page 122 - The only time Will knows what to do is when
something happens to somebody; disaster gives him leave to act.
Another common theme.
Page 137 - more crow's feet iron out on a face. Percy likes this image.
I liked the question on page 124, "Is it possible for people to miss
their lives in the same way one misses a plane?"
I like this - "We're the once born in a world of twice born." and the
rest of that paragraph on page 151.
I hope others decide to join in the discussion.
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