[percy-l] Comments on the first assigned reading of The Second Coming

janetcantor37 at yahoo.com janetcantor37 at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 16 11:02:39 EDT 2016

The book opens with a reminder of the opening of The Moviegoer as our protagonist is lying, face pressed to earth in a bunker surveying his surroundings. Instead of a dung beetle, this time it is a strange bird flying overhead.   There are the usual Percy obsessions, golf, people who seem happy but maybe not, because they don't realize why they shouldn't be, a hero who seems to be at sea about himself, drifting, yet there are real people and he is participating in  real life ordinary situations; there are negroes, Jews, a water tower, a girl that seems to have mattered, things going on in the brain.And this is just in the first twelve pages. So much to draw on for the rest of the novel. Along the way there is Percy's whimsy, mock seriousness and gorgeous writing.Now we branch out to the south and Churches. More of this to come surely.
There is a to be or not to be moment. But he says no, because then he would not find the answers, among them about the Jews and if they are a sign.Why, it is Will Barrett of The Last Gentleman. Percy decided he wasn't finished with him. Percy wanted to find out the answers, too.
Another reminder of The Moviegoer comes when a shot grazes his calf and he is snapped out of his malaise. The first chapter closes with one of Percy's marvelous character drawings, Ewell McBee, and a terrific tour de force bit of philosophy.
Now we meet a strange woman whom Percy uses as an example of another of his obsessions, how we communicate. There is some sweetly humorous writing about language and how others perceive what she means even if she doesn't know what she is saying or how to say it. Words, she comes to understand are signals, part of an agreed upon code. Semiotics.  Allison it is. And her peculiarities are best read as Percy tells about them. But there is a sense as you read about Allison that Will and she will come together somehow and fill each other's needs.For her to subsist now that she has escaped the asylum, Allison has written herself notes to remind herself that Aunt Sally (Kemp) has left her an estate. There is some money there. Sally can restore to her lost memory the forgotten feeling of being free.
Things I liked already from the reading of the first assigned pages:
A cat is 100 percent himself, but no man is. Some men were spectators merely occupying space and were only 2% of themselves. When the shot grazed Will in the thigh, the cat jumped four feet in the air and was reduced to zero percent of himself.
Looking for himself in mirrors like Count Dracula.
The meaning of the Jews and their comings and goings - now gone from this place Is it a sign? When Jews pull out the gentiles begin acting crazy - and the rest of that splendid paragraph on page 19.
So ends out first assigned reading. So much to consider already. We are in the hands of a marvelous novelist.

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