[percy-l] "Living as an Ex-Suicide" by Jessica Hooten Wilson

Plemmons, Gregory gregory.plemmons at Vanderbilt.Edu
Thu Jun 21 09:57:18 EDT 2018

Thanks for posting, Henry.

Tonight, I happened upon a video promoting the new PBS series The Great American Read featuring the young adult author John Green (link here: https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/a70ef29d-b06a-4f15-8a49-2d398b9e0444/the-great-gatsby-part-1-crash-course-english-literature-104/? ). While none of Percy’s novels made the top 100, watching the video, I had to smile on seeing The Last Gentleman atop a stack of books (screencap attached). I have no idea if this was Green’s idea or the producer’s, but it has struck me at times how Green, despite his YA label, is in many ways a worthy heir to Percy’s spirit, as he has explored many themes common to Percy throughout his novels, his protagonists often akin to Binx Bolling or Will Barrett. For those of you who may not be familiar with his work, his first novel (Looking For Alaska) examined a high school suicide with grief, hope, and search for meaning. Green wrote his sixth (arguably his most famous) novel The Fault In Our Stars after he interned for a year as a children’s hospital chaplain. And his latest, Turtles All The Way Down, is in some ways his most autobiographical, as he explores mental illness and depression and has been candid about his own struggles. Green's ability to finesse melancholy and humor have always reminded me of Percy, and his novels, like Percy’s, are never driven primarily by plot. Anyhow, when I saw The Last Gentleman perched next to him, it got me wondering if any other Percy fans have read him. If you haven’t, he’s worth a look.

Gregory Plemmons

From: Percy-L [percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] on behalf of Marshall Smith [mhsmithjrlaw at gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 8:07 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] "Living as an Ex-Suicide" by Jessica Hooten Wilson

I have always marveled at the way Percy wrote about suicide philosophically and matter of factly at the same time.  It’s obvious in his writing that he had a terrible familiarity with it but had also thought about the philosophical/moral/religious implications deeply for many years.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 20, 2018, at 2:33 AM, Henry P. Mills <wppdirector at gmail.com<mailto:wppdirector at gmail.com>> wrote:

Dear Percy-L:

For the group's reading and reflection. Certainly the recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade reveal how millions can be affected by the suicides of but two of us.  Percy himself once remarked how he was at the time the only one in multiple generations in his family lineage to live beyond 70 due repeated suicides in his family.

***Jessica Hooten Wilson is an associate professor of literature and creative writing at John Brown University. She is the author of three books, including Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky & the Search for Influence and Reading Walker Percy's Novels.***

All best,
Henry Mills
Percy-L Administrator

-------Living as an Ex-Suicide
by JESSICA HOOTEN WILSON<https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.libertylawsite.org%2Fauthor%2Fjessica-hooten-wilson%2F&data=02%7C01%7Cgregory.plemmons%40vanderbilt.edu%7C6ec1a8da774c46bf9d7508d5d71370c9%7Cba5a7f39e3be4ab3b45067fa80faecad%7C0%7C1%7C636651400848491095&sdata=FNtjonSpt9vw%2FdWXUry11zPccTo2IQ6fsJRlJwU%2FdFU%3D&reserved=0>
JUNE 15, 2018

Opening paragraphs:
“The only cure for depression is suicide.” Walker Percy was not joking when he penned this line. The author himself was a survivor of suicide—though he did not attempt it. His grandfather and father both shot themselves at home; his mother either intentionally or not drove off of a bridge and drowned; and the first American Percy, Charles Percy, tied a kettle to his neck and also drowned.
Unlike his ancestors, Walker Percy lived a full life and died of prostate cancer at 74 years old. Why did they die but he lived? Because Percy chose to be a survivor, to find out not only why his father took his own life, but, as he put it, “to make damn sure it didn’t happen to [him].” This determination fueled his work. Percy wrote novel after novel trying to solve what Albert Camus called the only philosophical question, to be or not to be….

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