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202Philosophy and Literature Walker Percy: Novelist and Philosopher, edited by Jan Nordby Gredund and Karl-Heinz Westarp; 256 pp. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 1991, $32.50. These twenty-one essays, revised from presentations at an international symposium , raise significant questions about the intersection of philosophy and literature throughout Percy's writings, especially those of abstraction and abstractedness . The preface by Karl-Heinz Westarp places the studies within the arena where Percy himself crafted art in relation to the larger philosophical questions about death and life which haunted him as observer of the human condition. Ultimately Percy's work, and these investigations of it, remind us that we, as philosopher-readers, must "choose life," even if this often remains difficult because it seems impossible to articulate what we only vaguely sense. Organized usefully into four sections, this book will be of value to scholars with a specialized interest in Percy's relation to questions about philosophy and literature, as well as to students who seek to understand his place in the development of American fiction. With but a few exceptions, these essays astutely probe, make connections, and delineate the patterns which careful readers have already sensed. In section one, "The Novelist," Lewis Lawson, Gary M. Ciuba, Patrick Samway, and W L. Godshalk examine the following: how an understandingofPercy 's commitment to Christianity and his fascination with language must by synthesized; how his reading of Mann's TL· Magic Mountain feeds into his earliest writing; how the careful revision of a crucial part of the final novel, TL· Thanatos Syndrome, clarifies Percy's concerns; and how his two Will Barrett novels "favor engagement with life" (p. 4). Only the strangely wrong-headed Joseph Schwartz "Redux" essay, which complains about inconsistencies between Will in his twenties and forties, seems misguided. Percy's point in returning to Will in TL· Second Coming is surely that real life is not "artistic life." Percy might explain to readers who wonder about the older Will that while we would all like to be changed forever, one can never be sure such apparent changes will last. The second section is labeled "Novelist and Regionalist." The best essay here, by Bertram Wyatt-Brown, demonstrates connections (surely unconscious) between Percy's work and his forebears who also wrote fiction. Other essays by Susan Donaldson, Jan Gredund, and Peggy Prenshaw develop connections between Southern metafiction, stoicism, and Eudora Welty. In each of these instances we are given valuable insights which help us understand Percy as an artist who builds on his consciousness of region to make art. More problematic—perhaps because it is so difficult to pin down modern and postmodern issues—are questions raised in Part III: "Novelist and Existentialist ." The essays in this section nonetheless demonstrate Percy's concerns with immediacy: Marion Montgomery writes on Kierkegaard; Kathleen Scullin Reviews203 on Sartre; they both show that Percy moved beyond these mentors. Similarly, Linda Hobson, drawing quite good connections with Dostoevsky, and John Desmond, showing how Percy goes beyond Faulkner in relation to the question of not committing suicide, provide useful essays. Desmond, for example, demonstrates that parallels, especially in TL· Second Coming, "abound" while "Percy's move beyond Lancelot is decisive" (p. 136). Maybe the most insightful piece in this section, frequently concerned with existentialism, is John Edward Hardy's "Man, Beast . . . ," a beautiful evocation of what Percy suggests with his myriad studied references to non-human creatures from whom we can learn. Finally, Robert Brinkmeyer's essay on Lancelotis rich with insights about intersubjectivity in the fiction and in the relationship between the fiction and the reader. The concluding section contains six essays: Ashley Brown considers Percy as "moralist"; François Pitavy studies the final novel as "Brave New World"; William Rodney Allen argues against the polemics of Father Smith in The Thanatos Syndrome; Patricia Lewis Poteat, in a particularly insightful piece, analyzes tenderness , the will to power, and the death of spirit as depicted in the final novel; Elzbieta H. Oleksy draws valuable parallels between Lancelot and Moby-Dick; and in an appropriate final piece Sue Mitchell Crowley probes the relationship between Percy and Flannery O'Connor and discovers starding assimilations of O'Connor in Percy's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 202-203
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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