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When The Moviegoer, an extraordinary first novel by an unknown Louisiana author, won the National Book Award in 1962, it marked the arrival of an exceptional literary talent. With his five successive novels and his wide-ranging philosophical and occasional essays, Walker Percy shored up his reputation as one of America's greatest writers - an ironic moralist and perhaps the shrewdest chronicler of life in the New South. Yet even by the time of his death in 1990, little was known about this intensely private man. Based on extensive interviews, written with access to Percy's letters and manuscripts, Jay Tolson has fashioned the first major biography of the writer, an authoritative portrait that brings Percy alive as it illuminates his distinguished body of work. We see Percy's life and his brilliant career against the background of the American South, whose colorful and tragic history is rooted deeply in the hearts and minds of its most talented sons and daughters. With a novelist's eye for character and the judgment of an informed critic, Tolson captures the lifelong drama of genius, always attentive to its artistic, psychological and spiritual dimensions. Percy was the scion of a proud, honorable and accomplished family, a clan haunted by a crippling streak of melancholy that issued repeatedly in suicides, including the self-inflicted deaths of Walker Percy's father and grandfather. Tolson depicts the struggle of Percy's life and the heroism with which he battled his family demons (and his own tubercular condition) and worked his way toward a writing career. Here is the young Percy in the days after his father's death, traveling with his brother and his mother (who would soon dieherself, in mysterious circumstances) from his childhood home of Birmingham, Alabama, to Athens, Georgia, and then on to Greenville, Mississippi, and the sprawling house of his Uncle Will. Adopted at 16 by this remarkable "bachelor-poet-lawyer-planter, " the most important single influe
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This extremely well written biography offers many of the satisfactions of a good novel: strong themes, sensitive appreciation of character, and a compelling protagonist. The author of The Moviegoer and Lancelot, Walker Percy, seems always to have been a solitary wayfarer, despite an enduring marriage and close friendships, including a lifelong one with novelist and Civil War historian Shelby Foote. In Jay Tolson's assessment, the weight of his father's and grandfather's suicides bore heavily on Percy, whose desire to escape his deadly family legacy undoubtedly had a bearing on his choice of the Catholic faith at age 31.From Library Journal:
Percy the novelist was arguably the most legitimate apologist for orthodox Christianity in modern letters. A convert to Catholicism, Percy mourned this century's loss of a sense of sin, destroyed by the sensations and temptations offered by the richest country on earth. As a result, he created characters who sought the source of their alienation. Tolson's biography is a skillful synthesis of the trivia of Percy's life, the evolution of his thought, and the substance of his novels. Echoing Percy's belief that history and family history are hopelessly interwoven, Tolson dwells perhaps more than usual on the author's forebears in the South, where they had been prominent for generations. Percy trained as a doctor but contracted tuberculosis while autopsying cadavers at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, which influenced his decision to become a writer. It was his reading of Kierkegaard that alerted him to the useful paradox that true individuality is won only through submission to a higher authority. A substantial biography of a very substantial writer.
- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Simon & Schuster. Paperback. Condition: LIKE NEW. Like new, very light shelf wear. Seller Inventory # 2867585771
Book Description Simon & Schuster 2007-02-01, 2007. Paperback. Condition: Good. 141655209X. Seller Inventory # 552122