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Walker Percy: In Gratitude


The below remembrance by Rhoda K. Faust originally appeared in the "Maple Street Wag," Maple Street Book Shop, New Orleans, La., April 17, 1991. Re-printed with permission.

Walker Percy was especially kind to the Maple Street Book Shop. Years ago, when he was teaching a course at Loyola, he started dropping by to say hello and sign books for us. He also let us give several autograph parties for him, even though, as we discovered later, they were a source of intense discomfort for him, as he hated forgetting people's names and perhaps hurting their feelings. When he couldn't handle signing-parties anymore, he was agreeable to our sending out flyers announcing the publication of a new book. We would drive over to Covington with a car full of boxes of his new book for him to sign and inscribe.

Customer response invariably yielded great piles of sometimes weird and intricate requests for special inscriptions. He would always try to accommodate and would only sometimes pass judgment in the form of a sad smile when confronted with instructions on a form to inscribe something like, "To a budding fellow writer who treads the same path and makes the same search..." or "To a bourbon-lover extraordinaire-You love not wisely but too well...don't blow your cool." Once in a while he'd look up with a slight grimace and say, "Do I know this guy?"

He also helped Maple Street Book Shop's publishing arm, Faust Publishing Company, to come into existence by offering a speech of his, "Diagnosing the Modem Malaise," to be its first publication, and later, two other pieces of his work.

After Walker Percy's death, many of our customers expressed their sympathy for our loss. We really appreciated that, and want to thank them. Many also voiced their own great sorrow. Some of the people who were most saddened did not even know him personally, but they had read his books and felt, and we understand why, that he knew them.

As a writer his greatest gift was getting right to the heart of the matter, putting his finger right on the crucial spot. The dry humor with which he did this made his books startlingly funny, while at the same time, breathtakingly important. With regard to his faith in God and Catholicism, it was his intelligent soft-handedness that won him respect from non-believers as well as believers.

We have lost a great friend and we remember him gratefully.

- Publication Date
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