Walker Percy

By: Amanda French
May 28, 2010

Walker Percy

So, if you want to be WALKER PERCY (1916-90), here’s what you do: have a father who shoots himself with a shotgun when you’re twelve. Have a mother who might or might not have committed suicide by driving her car off a bridge while her youngest son was in the car (he survived, she didn’t). Embody thusly New Orleans Southern Gothic. Move to New York to go to med school at Columbia. Contract tuberculosis from a cadaver at Bellevue mental hospital. Stop reading medical and scientific texts and start reading Kierkegaard. Abandon agnosticism for Catholicism. Publish your first novel, The Moviegoer, when you’re 46. In that novel, write,

Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.

Help found the first credit union in pre-civil rights Covington, Louisiana that’ll make home loans to African Americans. Discover A Confederacy of Dunces and make sure it gets published. Be a sort of Southern David Foster Wallace of the 1960s. But don’t kill yourself. Keep writing books. Write, for instance, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, a satiric critique of self-help books. Keep writing books until your death from cancer in 1990, when you’re 73. Write,

The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest.

The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive.

NEW WAVE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: 75 Best New Wave (1964–1983) Sci-Fi Novels | Back to Utopia: Fredric Jameson’s theorizing about New Wave sci-fi | Douglas Adams | Poul Anderson | J.G. Ballard | John Brunner | William Burroughs | Octavia E. Butler | Samuel R. Delany | Philip K. Dick | Frank Herbert | Ursula K. Le Guin | Barry N. Malzberg | Moebius (Jean Giraud) | Michael Moorcock | Alan Moore | Gary Panter | Walker Percy | Thomas Pynchon | Joanna Russ | James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon) | Kurt Vonnegut | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Zo d’Axa and Victor Turner.

READ MORE about the New Gods Generation (1914-23).


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