Walker Percy

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Walker Percy (May 28, 1916 - May 10, 1990) was an American author, born in Birmingham, Alabama. During his high school years, his father committed suicide and his mother died in a car crash, after which he and his two younger brothers moved to Greenville, Mississippi, where his cousin, William Alexander Percy, became their guardian.

He trained as a medical doctor at Columbia College in New York City, from where he received his medical degree in 1941, but he became a writer after contracting tuberculosis in 1942. He married Mary Bernice Townsend on November 7, 1946, and they raised their two daughters in Covington, Louisiana. A prolific essayist, Percy is best known for his "philosophical novels," the first of which, The Moviegoer, won a National Book Award in 1962.

The Moviegoer recounts the story of Binx Bolling, an alienated, anxious young stockbroker, who seeks meaning for his existence by embarking upon a "search." During a firefight in the Korean War, Binx was wounded. He said that, as he lay upon the battlefield, he saw, as if for the first time, a dung beetle. Because he actually saw this insect, it became "present" to him, he explains, more so than any other aspect of his environment, and he felt truly alive for that instant of his life. The incident marked his search for a meaningful existence in which the world, in all its fullness, is present to him and he is likewise present to it.

Like his other fiction, The Moviegoer is concerned with many of the same themes as those of Percy's fellow Southern Catholic writer, Flannery O'Connor. Percy died of prostate cancer in 1990.

An interesting story about Walker Percy involves him, his friend Shelby Foote and their mutual admiration of William Faulkner. As young men, Percy and Foote decided to pay their respects to Faulkner by visiting him in Oxford, Mississippi. However, when they finally drove up to Faulkner's home, Percy was so in awe of the literary giant that he could not bring himself to talk to Faulkner. Later on, he recounted how he could only sit in the car and watch while Shelby Foote and William Faulkner had a lively conversation on the porch that afternoon.

Partial bibliography

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