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Studies in American Fiction241 Yet, even with these problems—indeed, perhaps because of them—Herzog's is a very interesting book. It raises questions about the construction of the canon and suggests exciting possibilities for re-vision. Even if the thesis Herzog argues is not completely convincing, the combination of texts in this pioneering book is extremely thought-provoking . Tufts UniversityElizabeth Ammons Lawson, Lewis A. and Kramer, Victor A. Conversations with Walker Percy. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1985. 325 pp. Cloth: $17.95. The twenty-seven "interviews" arranged chronologically in this volume, though not finally of even quality and equal value, do reflect accurately and suggestively, as the editors claim, "the development of interest in Percy" in the years since The Moviegoer won the National Book Award (1962). The only substantial exclusions are interview-based materials that have made their way into other books and are thus easily available. In this collection all but the last one (regrettably not one of the most informative or incisive, though it takes up Percy's interest in and meeting with Thomas Merton) are reprints; the editors, having chosen to make no changes, allow to stand numerous instances of repetition that some readers may think irksome. But various versions of "repetition" looming as large as they do in Percy's vision, the decision has merit. The attentive reader can track not only the growingly intense interest in Percy but also the play of dialectic in his ideas. And here and there the reader can spot various shifts in Percy's attitudes. AU readers should find engaging materials aplenty, the range of them touched on and often pursued in detail being impressive: from the personal and autobiographical, the literary and aesthetic , to issues social, political, historical religious, and cultural. The volume is more than serviceable, both to the seasoned Percy student who has seen these pieces before and to the recent initiate, who can find in these exchanges ample reference to many of the themes and questions that have preoccupied Percy as a critic of postmodern culture and as a language theorist. Though one for the most part must look elsewhere—in, say, the essays of Lewis Lawson himself—for the most sustained and perceptive analyses of Percy's thinking and writing, this is the only study so far that at least makes mention of all his works, including his most recent satire Lost in the Cosmos (1983) and a sixth novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, which takes up the farther adventures of Dr. Thomas More, protagonist of Love in the Ruins. The editors have provided also both a chronology of Percy's life and career and a thorough index which will make the volume a useful reference for future criticism and, no doubt, for further interviews. The book wears well in being read straight through and is worthy of returning to. Still, by keeping hands off, the editors have lost a few opportunities for greater clarity, consistency, accuracy. Brief editorial notes would have resolved numerous questions: was it 100 or 150 autopsies Percy performed at Bellevue Hospital before contracting tuberculosis ? And how many manuscript pages of The Second Coming—100 or 200—had he completed when he realized that the story he was telling belonged to the older Will Barrett? And how long, exactly, was Percy's stay in Santa Fe? There are likewise conflicting accounts of Percy's age at the time of his father's suicide and his mother's death as well as of the period of his convalescence during World War II. Although the biographical record we have is occasionally corrected—the exact role played by brother Phinizy, for example, in the Kennedy PT-109 incident (p. 265)—the editors' claim that "by now we know a great 242Reviews deal, far more in truth than we will ever know about many another writer" (p. ix) strikes me as more than a tad misleading. What we know of Percy's early years—as well as some of the middle ones—is indeed very limited, even when we add up facts established in both this and other studies. We probably know far less about the existential quality of Percy's "formative" years...


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pp. 241-243
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