Skip to Navigation  Skip to Content  Skip to Footer Navigation 

The Walker Percy Project logo
The Walker Percy Project

With Walker Percy at the Tupperware Party: in Company with Flannery O'Connor, T.S. Eliot, and Others


Marion Montgomery

Montgomery makes a retrospective journey with Walker Percy, as Percy comes to an accommodation with the modern world in company with other companionable journeymen. Percy himself enjoyed a large company of pilgrims who prove amenable to his vision of the human condition — in Percy's words, man is "in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery," words celebratively spoken of as "the holiness of the ordinary," as opposed to what he called the "losangelization" of the popular spirit, a spirit which increasingly takes refuge in enclaves of "selves" in the relapse into tribalism celebrated as our "New Age." Percy's long journey from and then back to the South, his acceptance of what his Uncle Will exhibited as "Southern stoicism," had a reorientation that proved to be a "fortunate fall" very personal to him, occurring in a world far removed from the Southern Delta culture. As medical intern in the North, he undergoes a "training" that prepared him (in his subtitle to "Physician as Novelist") "for diagnosing T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land," which led to his contracting tuberculosis — a devastating arrest which he would later conclude more an act of grace than an accidental misfortune as science might have it. Recovering, he begins to read and read: Gabriel Marcel, Kierkegaard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Camus and Sartre and Eliot and others. And he begins distinguishing between valid science and scientism as knowing of reality, recognized as limited by the finiteness of the intellectual soul. Percy left the field of medicine to doctor to man in a different way. Unlike, say, Eliot, whose irony was sardonic and self-lacerating, leading to a nervous breakdown, Percy's speaks recognition of, and acceptance of, himself as "in a predicament."

Marion Montgomery is professor emeritus of English at the University of Georgia. He is also the author of John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate: At Odds about the Ends of History and the Mystery of Nature.

Publication Date: September 15, 2009