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Studies in American Fiction243 had with Percy several years ago, Percy revealed—in response to a not very perceptive question—that the idea of Will Barrett's desperate bus ride in The Second Coming had been prompted by a visit from an old acquaintance he had not seen in years: the man had walked away from his wife after a church service several states away, hopped on a bus in this amnesiac condition, and turned up at Percy's door several days later. Thus does Percy typically manage to transform the naive or misguided into the purposeful and informative—and the interview into genuine conversation. And so too bad reasons into good ones. For, as these exchanges show, Percy's fiction and nonfiction alike have inspired intimately involved responses from many of his readers, and they would know more. Another reason for this volume is Percy's basic style: whether written or spoken, whether in fiction or in linguistic or belletristic essays, it is a style which is, from first to last, profoundly collaborative, simultaneously meditative and, as the title of this volume declares, conversational. Finally among the good reasons is the person himself, at once reserved and casual, genial, patient and engaged, oftentimes ironic and bemused: and so candid that, as more than one of his "interviewers" learned quickly here, he is disarmingly at ease with efforts to have him be self-revelatory. Though he is not, any more than Hawthorne was, "one of those supremely hospitable people, who serve up their own hearts delicately fried, with brain-sauce, as a tidbit for their beloved public," there is about Percy an easy instinct or grace that keeps at bay the old American menace of coy strategies of self-concealment. Neither the interviewer nor the reader has to proceed very far, however, to know that Percy would rather converse about his writing, about the world he shares or would share with his interviewers and readers, about a host of ideas and values generally other-directed. The most organized and systematic of these conversations—those of Carlton Cremeens, Zoltán Abádi-Nagy, Jan Norman Gretlund, Bradley R. Dewey, Ben Forkner and J. Gerald Kennedy are but representative of the best—find Percy following and developing concentrated lines of concern, inquiry, and argument. As does Percy's own genially witty parody of the interview in "Questions They Never Asked Me." Percy's self-education in Kierkegaardian ideas and his departures from them; the advantages and disadvantages of his being a writer both southern and Catholic; his sense of himself as satirist and humorist and of the postmodern novel as an exercise in pathology; his linguistic interest in and philosophical insistence on the "coupler;" his perception of the nature of human communication as quintessentially "triadic" and of man's capacity for language making him discontinuous from the lower animals; his critique, not of the scientific method, but of modern "scientism": the topics explored have the sweep oía Whitman catalogue. Throughout it all there is Percy's voice, settled in some convictions and searching energetically for others. It is that American voice, finally, rather than a principle of chronology, that gives this book its force, charm, and value. University of Missouri, ColumbiaJ. Donald Crowley Von Frank, Albert J. The Sacred Game: Provincialism and Frontier Consciousness in American Literature, 1630-1860. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985. 188 pp. Cloth: $24.95 "The American," wrote Emerson in Nature (1836), "who has been confined, in his own country, to the sight of buildings designed after foreign models, is surprised on entering York Minster or St. Peter's at Rome, by the feeling that the structures are 244Reviews imitations also,—faint copies of an invisible archetype." Though there lies behind this remark a trace of Transcendentalist bravado, it is also a confession of relief at the discovery that the monuments of European civilization are as far removed from their originating spirit as are the more modest material structures of America. Albert J. von Frank (who has splendidly edited Emerson's poetry notebooks, and is General Editor of the forthcoming edition of the sermons) has come to know this side of Emerson well, the side that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 243-245
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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