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More Conversations With Walker Percy


More Conversations With Walker Percy. Edited by Lewis A. Lawson and Victor A. Kramer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993. 242 pages, with introduction and glossary.

A Brief Foreword by the Interviewer
This reviewer was fortunate enough to contact his friend, the late Doctor Percy through a spirit guide who set up an appointment for an interview about the book. It was an interview to end all Percy interviews. We met in New York City on a pleasant bench near the sheep meadow of Central Park South where Walker had always suggested that his shade might eventually want to end up....The reader of this interview is cautioned though, that like all Percy conversations, it is best perused after a reading of the book itself.

Nikki Barranger: Thanks for making time for the chat, Walker.

Walker Percy: My pleasure, Nik.

NB: We know how busy you always are.

WP: Less now than formerly. I enjoy the enforced leisure.

NB: Does this choice of place for our conversation indicate anything about your geographical preference these days?

WP: Well, it keeps folks from asking me how it feels to be a Southern Writer...

NB: Yes, that does grow tiresome, doesn't it?

WP: Not as tiresome as having to read the same answer over and over in a book like this one.

NB: To be sure. You've read the book then.

WP: Oh yes. We get these things on the cosmic Internet.

NB: Aside from the repetitions in the questions and answers, what did you think of it as a whole?

WP: I'm amazed that I said all that. Everybody always said I was supposed to be such a recluse.

NB: I never thought you were.

WP: That goes for me neither.

NB: So it comes as a surprise that you said all those thousands and thousands of words to all those interviewers. Looking back on it, why do you suppose that was?

WP: Two reasons I think. First, I always enjoyed talking to all those bright, attractive people. I probably learned as much from them as they did from me. It let me know what they were thinking and what books they were reading. It was reassuring to know that, just like I had, they had also read Soren Kierkegaard and Marcel and Sartre and Camus — except they had done it without having time off to do it which comes from catching TB. Or maybe they did it after reading my books. Either way, it was a pleasure talking to them.

NB: What was the second reason?

WP: It was a wonderful way to get away from the daytime-terrors of facing the blank page.

NB: In light of the ineluctable evidence of your willingness to have all these conversations with complete strangers, where do you suppose your reputation as a recluse came from?

WP: Oh, Bunt started that...

NB: You enjoyed those conversations then?

WP: Absolutely. And now I come to think of it, I guess there was still a third reason I got a kick out of those chats on the porch with all those folks.

NB: How's that?

WP: Well, while they had all read Kierkegaard and the French novelists and Thomas Mann, it was a sheer pleasure to hit them with Cassirer and Charles Sanders Peirce. The literature people had never even heard of them. You could just watch their eyes glaze over. Then they'd make quick notes. And you could tell they were going to off and find a copy of Philosophy of Symbolic Forms and Letters to Lady Welby.

NB: I haven't reread those lately myself.

WP: I can tell by the glaze in your eyes.

NB: Speaking of rereading, did you enjoy reading More Conversations yourself?

WP: Strangely yes. The editors have done a nice job cleaning up the sentences. And it was nice to see them all together in one place. And it's interesting to revisit the body of thought that one was thinking over a ten year stretch all neatly tied up like this. And of course it flatters one's vanity...

NB: Do I gather then, that you even enjoyed the repetitions?

WP: Even the repetitions. Of course I always had rather a thing about repetitions. The gentle reader may find them a bit trying.

NB: That brings me to my next question. Who do you think the gentle reader for this book really is?

WP: Search me, dad. I guess whoever read the first book of Conversations and hadn't got their fill...

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