During the Struggle of Writing: Walker Percy

Walker Percy

Walker Percy

If I should try to tell you anything about it, it would be a lie and wouldn’t sound like what it is, since what it is, is in the telling as you know well. I think what’s got me down is that the novel is attempting the impossible: to write about the great traditional themes, sin, God, love, death etc., when in fact these themes are no longer with us, we’ve left them, even death, or they’ve left us. I’ve been in a long spell of . . . anomie and aridity in which, unlike the saints who writhe under the assaults of devils, I simply get sleepy and doze off. . . . My Catholicism consists just now and mainly in the deepest kind of hunch that it all works out, generally for the good, and everybody gets their deserts—which is frightening. But, I mean, artistically, there is no sweat. One waits. Not for the Muse, f*ck her, but until one finds a new language, because that’s about what it takes, the language is about dead.

This is all mostly bull. You know what my real sin is? Laziness. Which is to say that if I were broke, had four squalling kids and a deadline, I’d be working my ass off, nicht? That’s how come they call it a mortal sin. My only defense is that I was born lazy.

P.S. Shakespeare had it easy; he had a language, a new language, busting out all around him, and he didn’t even have to make up stories: the stories were around him too. We have to do it all, including the impossible or all but impossible task: make up a language as you go along. All you have to do to be a good novelist now is to be like God on the first day.

From Wikipedia:

Walker Percy, Obl.S.B. (May 28, 1916 – May 10, 1990) was an Alabamian Southern author whose interests included philosophy and semiotics. Percy is known for his philosophical novels set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, the first of which, The Moviegoer, won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. He devoted his literary life to the exploration of “the dislocation of man in the modern age.” His work displays a unique combination of existential questioning, Southern sensibility, and deep Catholic faith.


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