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Introducing myself...

Wade Riddick (riddick@JEEVES.LA.UTEXAS.EDU)

My name is Wade Riddick.

I'm currently working on a PhD in political science at the University of
Texas. I received a BA in English from LSU in 1990.

I had the good fortune of meeting Walker Percy when he came to LSU in 1986
(or was it '85?) for the Southern Review anniversary to read passages from
his last novel. I was covering the event for the Baton Rouge High School
newspaper _Campus Currents_ and he consented to an interview after his
reading. It was something of a scoop for a high school student.

The cafeteria was closed so I and two other reporters sat around the Union
chatting for about half an hour. I mostly kept quiet and let other people
ask questions while I crossed my fingers and hoped my tape recorder was
working. He was quite a character.

I remember him as incredibly polite and good natured. I was surprised at
how approachable he was. My father said the same thing of one of Percy's
nephews who worked with him in the Attorney General's office. I never
realized how extensive his family was until I saw them all at the funeral
in Covington.

The first Percy novel I read was _Love in the Ruins_ (for the same high
school English/journalism class), which I enjoyed if for nothing other
than its depiction of Louisiana and politics (the CCCP/Knotheads, for
instance). I didn't really get into Walker Percy until I read _Lost in
the Cosmos_ a few years later when I worked a summer in D.C. I still
think of the bus ride into the Pentagon when I look at the book. It and
Walter Benjamin's work on Baudelaire and Paris had the most profound
impact on me as an undergrad.

I've read just about everything Percy's written with the notable exception
of _The Moviegoer_ and _Lancelot_. Graduate school seems to keep getting
in the way. _The Message in the Bottle_ remains half unread. I used to
love reading a chapter in it and then picking up my copy of Benjamin. I
think Percy would have appreciated the irony.

I was told by one of my southern literature professors that I tend to have
tastes that run counter to the typical Percy fans (I'm not sure what this
is). I don't know if this is true or not, but I might as well get it out
in the open. I can't stand the sequel to _The Last Gentleman_. (Its name
escapes me for the moment even though it's resting downstairs somewhere
on a shelf). What I've always liked about Percy was his humorous style, his
irony and satire and his common sense approach to things.

I don't know why, but unlike other writers, reading Percy was like
listening to advice from my parents. I remember the scene in the _Last
Gentleman_ when Bill Barrett looks at the fraternity brothers in the bar
and turns to, is it his uncle? - I can't remember - and asks him why
they're so happy when he feels so out of place and the response he gets is
something to the effect of "How do you know they're so happy?" He didn't
always tell the best stories, but I was always surprised at the things
like this he did get right that escaped almost everyone else. He had a
way of cutting right to the chase and exposing the modern problem in a
straight-forward way. You don't come across that quality often in a

By the way, just out of curiosity, does anyone know how close Percy ever
got to winning the Nobel? Who the hell is Cela, anyway...

Wade Riddick

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