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Walker Percy: An American Search


Robert Coles, M.D.

— "I have relied upon Dr. Percy's ideas constantly to the point that I can scarcely imagine how I would have thought about either my own life or the lives of the children, parents, teachers I have met, were he to have decided, long ago, to keep his important and instructive thoughts to himself." – Robert Coles

In Walker Percy: An American Search, Robert Coles, noted child psychiatrist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Children of Crisis series, gives us the first comprehensive study of Walker Percy's life, his philosophical inquiries, and the whole range of his literary works — not only Percy's National Book Award-winning The Moviegoer and his subsequent, highly acclaimed "novels of ideas" (The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins, and Lancelot), but also his less widely known philosophical essays in Christian existentialism.

Based on personal interviews, Walker Percy: An American Search illuminates a "man of special understanding and humor, a person who helps the reader think altogether differently about life."

Coles identifies some of the philosophical issues and dialectic that prefigure Percy's essays and novels. He studies Percy's remarkable transformation of the European, Christian, and secular existentialist tradition of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into his own unique American one — a contemporary form of Christian existentialism balanced with the pragmatism and empiricism of the medical profession he had trained to enter.

Coles thoroughly and knowledgeably weighs the themes in Percy's works, assesses their special qualities, ties them to that tradition of Christian existentialism to which both Coles and Percy belong, and considers their ultimate meaning to serious watchers of our society.

Robert Coles is a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University and the author ofWalker Percy, An American Search (1978). He was a long-time personal friend of Percy. His piece "Harvard Diary: Remembering Walker Percy" appears in the The Walker Percy Project.

Publication Date: 1978