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Subject: Percy-L: Literary, Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical Discussion on Walker Percy

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  • From: "Plemmons, Gregory" <gregory.plemmons AT Vanderbilt.Edu>
  • To: "percy-l AT" <percy-l AT>
  • Subject: [percy-l] Percy and recent memoir
  • Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2016 18:44:43 +0000

While Knight Of Cups hasn’t yet made it to my town, I came across an essay/review of a recent book that made me think of Percy, and his time while recovering from tuberculosis. When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir published earlier this year and currently receiving a lot of press, recounts the experience of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who discovers he has a terminal brain tumor at the age of 34. While I’ve only read parts of it thus far, Megha Majumdar’s recent essay, “The Great Divide Between Science and Literature” is a short but interesting read:


Diagnosed with a serious illness of his own… the doctor found that he needed literary translation of his experiences. When scientific studies and survival statistics offered little, he turned to books: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf.”


There is no mention of Percy in the essay, but the next day I stumbled across the quote below as I’ve been reading Conversations with Walker Percy:


“…My devotion to science is still with me—I like its elegance and precision. It is simply that I became aware of some of its shortcomings, and Kierkegaard helped me to see them. He said, ‘Hegel told everything about the word except one thing: what it is to be a man and to live and to die.”


One wonders what Dr. Kalanithi would have gone on to write, if his Search had not been  precluded. Interested to see if anyone else has read the full memoir yet or if Percy is mentioned at any point.


Greg Plemmons





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