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The Walker Percy Project

A Walker Percy Primer

An initial introduction to Walker Percy, including his achievements as a writer

— Walker Percy's provocative integration of philosophy, science, and art together throughout his writings is strikingly original in his "diagnostic" thinking about human experience...

Walker Percy is often described as an insightful, if not wry "novelist-of-ideas," yet his contributions to human thought go well beyond the novels he wrote to include a rather substantial body of literary and scholastic commentary as well. Indeed, Percy's non-fiction writings might be said to reveal the elaborate, refined context in which the novelist generated his ideas for his fiction.

Stylized Graphic of Walker Percy

Winner of the 1962 National Book Award for his first novel, The Moviegoer, Dr. Percy went on to distinguish himself before his death in 1990 with the publication of five further novels in addition to two non-fiction books (followed by a posthumous third one) dedicated to exploring the peculiar situation that is the human condition. A more formal, philosophical fascination with the nature of language and its relationship to our humanity characterizes his non-fiction writings.

Originally trained as a medical doctor, Percy is perhaps comparable in his breadth of creativity to that of the celebrated 19th-century thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, though differences certainly abound between the two. The complex matrix Percy weaves between his novels and his philosophical writings almost certainly assures that a careful inspection of his work is worth the effort, whatever direction one approaches it from.

* * *

The Project's website aims to provide the reader with an introduction to and overview of both Percy's fiction and philosophies, including his interests in the science of language (or semiotics). It will do so, for students, general readers, and scholars, by offering ample reference to the already abundant scholastic resources available on him. If anything, these latter materials alone give testimony to Percy's achievements as a novelist, philosopher, and literary figure. To further these inquiries, all readers are invited to join in the Project's discussion opportunities through the Percy-L listserv community.

Awards and Honors:

Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC, Spring, 1989
T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing, Ingersoll Foundation, 1988
The Campion Award, 1986
St. Louis Literary Award, 1986
Los Angeles Times Book Prize for current interest, 1983, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
P.E.N./Faulkner Award nomination, 1981, The Second Coming
Notable Book citation from American Library Association, 1981, The Second Coming
American Book Award nomination, 1981, The Second Coming
National Book Critics Circle, citation, 1980, The Second Coming
Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 1980, The Second Coming
National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1967
National Book Award nomination, 1966, The Last Gentleman
National Book Award for fiction, 1962, The Moviegoer
Fellow, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

Selected Periodicals featuring Percy writings:

Harper's, Esquire, Vanity Fair, New York Times, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Saturday Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Scholasticism, Thought, Personalist, Commonweal, America.

View: The Complete Works of Walker Percy


novelist of ideas
philosophical novelist
comedic satirist
cautionary moralist
prophetic essayist
post-modern thinker
Southern gentleman
Martian castaway
Homo symbolificus
triadic scientist
apocalyptic cultural critic
Christian apologist
Kierkegaardian Roman Catholic
None of the above/
all of the above

*See Percy's Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (1983)

Image credit: Design by Herb Yellin, Lord John Press,
Diagnosing the Modern Malaise (Faust Publishing, 1985);
Original photograph ©Rhoda K. Faust, Maple Street Book Shop, New Orleans, La.