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The Fiction of Walker Percy


John Edward Hardy

John Edward Hardy is the first to treat the fiction of Walker Percy as fiction. Each chapter of The Fiction of Walker Percy provides a comprehensive study of an individual novel — The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins, Lancelot, The Second Coming — culminating in the first extensive critical evaluation of The Thanatos Syndrome.

No other critic has attempted such close readings of Percy's novels. Instead, many critics have treated his fiction as dramatizations of the ideas presented in Percy's philosophical essays. Still others have emphasized one aspect of his fiction to the exclusion of all others. Hardy refuses to pigeonhole Percy as satirist, existential novelist, Southern writer, Catholic, or physician. He engages himself with the novels, addressing Percy as an artist whose work constitutes a critical commentary on modern society and embodies a distinct view of the human condition.

By concerning himself with the plots, characters, language, themes, imagery, narrative experiments, and author-narrator-reader relationships in the complete works of Walker Percy, Hardy focuses upon the author's fictional rather than factual world.

"What we have here is not The Fiction of Walker Percy, but "John Edward Hardy Reads Walker Percy's Fiction." The critic is at center stage. And since this particular critic is informed, sensible, reasonable, curious, speculative, capable of making precise distinctions and picking up subtlety and nuance, and since he knows how to say what he means, I grant him his entire right to read it and tell me what he thinks." – Louis D. Rubin, Jr.

"Hardy's approach and argument cut against the grain of much Percy criticism and, in so doing, open up new ways of understanding the novels. The book adds a great deal to Percy scholarship and will be widely read by Percy scholars. Because of its strikingly original interpretations, The Fiction of Walker Percy will probably raise a stir with reviewers who know Percy's work well." – Robert Brinkmeyer, Jr., author of Three Catholic Writers of the Modern South

John Edward Hardy, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of Man in the Modern Novel, Katherine Anne Porter, and The Curious Frame: Seven Poems in Text and Context. Hardy is also the author of Certain Poems, a collection of his own verse.

Publication Date: October 1, 1987