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

Jim Forest jhforest at gmail.com
Sun Jul 17 16:09:50 EDT 2016

Janet wrote:

>> Now we branch out to the south and Churches. More of this to come surely.

Will (Percy) has lots to say about churches and Christians -- this is one
of the book’s major topics. Page 12: Will “lived in the most Christian
nation in the world, the USA, in the most Christian part of the nation…”
Much more coming re Christians in later chapters. Yet, in contrast to a
cat, which in 100 percent itself, both the Christians and the
non-Christians are two percent themselves. Will Barrett too until grazed by
the wakeup call of a bullet. Page 18: “It takes a gunshot to restore a man
to himself.”

Then, as Janet points out, Will is haunted/obsessed with the Jews and his
sense they have all packed their bags and moved to Israel. Some kind of
apocalyptic sign? “Who said we could get along without the Jews?” (Page
19)  One wonders what Jewish presence/absence meant not just to Will but to


* * *

On Sat, Jul 16, 2016 at 5:02 PM, janetcantor37 at yahoo.com <
janetcantor37 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> 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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