[percy-l] Re-reading "Love in the Ruins"

Burma Jones lesliemarsh at gmail.com
Wed Apr 1 18:12:56 EDT 2020

On this note, for what it's worth:

On Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 12:04 PM honeyjbc1 . <honeyjbc at gmail.com> wrote:

> Here I am again, the non scholar, America loving, non pessimist.
> I love this novel, too. And we all wonder what Percy would have to say now.
> But if you do a crossword puzzle and the clue is "to be human" and the
> answer is a three letter word, the answer is "err".
> And I always liked what William Buckley said after listening to a liberal
> on Firing Line go on and on about all that is wrong with America.
> Buckley leaned back in his chair and said quietly, "I like to ask the
> question, how are we doing, compared to everyone else?"
> May I suggest a reading of the new history book of America, Wilfred
> McClay's Land of Hope?
> Janet Cantor
> On Wed, Apr 1, 2020, 11:31 AM Jim Forest <jhforest at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hemmed in by the corona quarantine, I’ve just finished re-reading Walker
>> Percy’s apocalyptic comedy, *Love in the Ruins*. It’s one of the books I
>> return to every few years and find even better each time. The story, set in
>> the near future, is more timely, and more prophetic, than it was when the
>> book was first published half-a-century ago.
>> The novel’s narrator is Dr. Tom More, descendant of St. Thomas More, who
>> is both a physician and a patient at a mental hospital. The reader finds
>> him in a state of ruin following the death from cancer of his daughter
>> Samantha and the collapse of his marriage, his wife having run off with an
>> English new-age guru. As we quickly discover, More has become an alcoholic
>> who has fallen in love with three beautiful women half his age, his
>> assistant Ellen, a no-nonsense Presbyterian, Moira, a cellist, and Lola, on
>> the staff of the Masters-and-Johnson-style Love Clinic. More describes
>> himself as a “bad Catholic” who still believes in God, Jesus and the
>> Catholic Church, but whose chief devotions are to alcohol and sex, with God
>> in last place.
>> The story is set in the imaginary town of Paradise, Louisiana, whose
>> divisions mirror the splintered state of the “good old USA” — liberals
>> (Leftpapas) fighting it out with conservatives (Knotheads) while black
>> guerrillas (Bantus) wage war with whites of both camps. Meanwhile hippie
>> drop-outs seek refuge in the swamps. Burned-out cars rust in parking lots.
>> Suburban developments lie abandoned while the affluent seek refuge in gated
>> communities. Conservatives suffer from chronic rage and constipation.
>> Liberals suffer from chronic rage and sexual impotence. Each side is
>> convinced of the irredeemability of the other side. Psychologists and
>> proctologists are working full-time.
>> The Catholic Church has also disintegrated. The Roman Catholic Church
>> has been hijacked by the Knothead right and renamed the American Catholic
>> Church, now headquartered in Cicero, Illinois. Its logo is an image of a
>> suburban house surrounded by a white picket fence. Its calendar includes
>> Property Rights Sunday. The American flag is raised at the consecration of
>> the Host. There is also the Dutch Catholic Church, which believes is social
>> relevance but not in God. The actual Catholic Church is a battered remnant
>> of itself, reduced to holding masses in abandoned service stations.
>> Walker Percy, a physician turned philosopher turned novelist, has a theme
>> that in various ways reverberates in all his books but most notably in *Love
>> in the Ruins* — the “mind-body” problem, the soul divorced from the body
>> resulting in what More/Percy calls the angelism/bestialism of the divided
>> self. More/Percy is at war with a purely materialist understanding of who
>> we are. Physician/philosopher Percy is convinced that human beings are more
>> than chemistry.
>> Percy blames the philosopher Descartes for converting our self perception
>> of ourselves into a ghost inhabiting a machine. Before Descartes, human
>> reason was seen as an indication that we are made in the image of God.
>> Mind, soul, and body were linked. We humans lived and moved and had our
>> being in a reality that had God at its all-connecting center. After
>> Descartes the world and the cosmos became sourceless, purposeless and
>> meaningless with humanity a temporary accident on an accidental planet. We
>> became adrift of ourselves.
>> To heal the divided self, Dr. Tom More has come up a handy little device,
>> an Ontological Lapsometer, which he believes can cure humanity’s core
>> problem. With the Lapsometer, he can measure the electro-chemical activity
>> of key areas of the brain to reveal the mental health of the person being
>> tested and, by the application of heavy sodium ions, can correct, at least
>> temporarily, the mental-spiritual imbalances of his patients and even
>> himself. When More bombards areas of his own brain with the proper ions,
>> his indigestion clears up, his feelings of terror vanish and he goes
>> merrily about his work of saving humanity.
>> The devil himself takes an active interest in More’s Lapsometer and plays
>> a key role in the novel. He appears suddenly at More’s office, announcing,
>> “Art Immelman is the name. Funding is my game.” There is a smell of
>> brimstone in the air. Immelman assures More that he can get government
>> grants and even arrange a Nobel prize for More. All More needs to do is
>> sign over the invention’s control and rights to Immelman.
>> Unrepented racism is one of the novel’s major topics. Percy/More sees
>> slavery as having doomed the American experiment to failure:
>> *The poor U.S.A.! Even now, late as it is, nobody can really believe that
>> it didn’t work after all. The U.S.A. didn’t work! Is it even possible that
>> from the beginning it never did work? that the thing always had a flaw in
>> it, a place where it would shear, and that all this time we were not really
>> different from Ecuador and Bosnia-Herzegovina, just richer. …. What a bad
>> joke: God saying, here it is, the new Eden, and it is yours because you’re
>> the apple of my eye, because you the lordly Westerners, the fierce
>> Caucasian-Gentile-Visigoths, believed in me and in the outlandish Jewish
>> Event, even though you were nowhere near it and had to hear the news of it
>> from strangers. But you believed it and so I gave it all to you, gave you
>> Israel and Greece and science and art and the lordship of the earth, and
>> finally even gave you the new world that I blessed for you. And all you had
>> to do was pass one little test, which was surely child’s play because you
>> had already passed the big one. One little test: here’s a helpless man in
>> Africa, and all you have to do is not violate him. That’s all. One little
>> test: you flunk! …*
>> * * *
>> 1 April 2020
>> * * *
>> Hemmed in
>> *Writing Straight With Crooked Lines: A Memoir *
>> is now in print
>> http://jimandnancyforest.com/2020/03/writing-straight-with-crooked-lines-a-memoir/
>> Order page on the Orbis Books site:
>> https://www.orbisbooks.com/writing-straight-with-crooked-lines.html
>> Amazon US:
>> https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Straight-Crooked-Lines-Forest/dp/1626983577/
>> Amazon UK:
>> https://www.amazon.co.uk/Writing-Straight-Crooked-Lines-Memoir/dp/1626983577/
>> *books in print: *www.jimandnancyforest.com/books/
>> *web site: *www.jimandnancyforest.com
>> *Facebook page:* https://www.facebook.com/jim.forest1
>> *photos: *www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/albums/
>> *Amazon author page*: www.amazon.com/author/jimforest
>> ----------------------------------
>> * Percy-L Discussion Archives:
>> http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/
>> * Manage Your Membership:
>> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/percy-l
>> * Contact the Moderator: percy-l-owner (at) lists.ibiblio.org
>> * Visit The Walker Percy Project: http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> ----------------------------------
> * Percy-L Discussion Archives: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/
> * Manage Your Membership:
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/percy-l
> * Contact the Moderator: percy-l-owner (at) lists.ibiblio.org
> * Visit The Walker Percy Project: http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/attachments/20200401/275971d2/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Percy-L mailing list