Lost in the Cosmos (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Walker Percy is that rarest of all American writers, a philosophical novelist. Among philosophical novelists of the twentieth century (Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, for example), he is rarer still, for his existentialism is Christian rather than atheistic, and his method is decidedly comic in two senses of the word: It is satirically humorous, and it tends toward the realm of spiritual harmony typified by Dante’s The Divine Comedy (1320).
Percy’s novels detail the existential predicament in which post-Christian man finds himself: lost in the cosmos. The protagonists of Percy’s five novels are all lost: in the microcosms of New Orleans (The Moviegoer, 1961); New York City, the South and Southwest (The Last Gentleman, 1966); the ruins of Paradise Estates (Love in the Ruins, 1971); a Louisiana plantation transmogrified into a movie set and a room or cell in a center for aberrant behavior (Lancelot, 1977); and finally Lost Cove Cave (The Second Coming, 1980), where Percy’s befuddled hero demands that God make an appearance. What distinguishes Percy’s protagonists, what wakes them up to their predicament, is their inability to make do in the customary ways. Inauthenticity makes them uneasy even as authenticity continues to elude them. Although Percy’s satire can be scathingly funny—Father...
(The entire section is 2028 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Los Angeles Times. August 10, 1983, V, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 5, 1983, p. 1.
The New Republic. July 11, 1983, p. 38.
The New York Times. CXXXII, June 11, 1983, p. 12.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, June 5, 1983, p. 9.
Newsweek. CI, June 13, 1983, p. 72.
Washington Post Book World. June 19, 1983, p. 5.
(The entire section is 44 words.)