What are you trying to tell me, Walker Percy?

Walker Percy, I’m afraid I have a weak signal or something. Keep trying, though, because I’d love to know what it is you’re saying.

First you prompted me to bring Lancelot to the beach, where I encountered a brother-in-law in the midst of The Last Gentleman for the purpose of helping one of his theology students with his dissertation. That’s a little weird, right? I mean, I know that I name-dropped The Thanatos Syndrome in many a college interview, but I have to admit that you haven’t been popping up in conversation very much since then. And then you’re there at the beach house, my brother-in-law meeting you for the first time and me deciding I really ought to know you better. Being from the South.

NOT IN SEQUENCE WITH REST OF EVENTS: Apparently, I went to school one year with your distant cousin. Your cousin!!!! I only know this because I watched your Notre Dame speech and you mentioned Jack Spalding. Your cousin!!!!

So now I’m working on Love in the Ruins and I think, why not take it to the pediatric dentist? The children will be occupied for at least 15 minutes in screaming at hygienists, allowing me to get through July 3rd, at least. OH DID I MENTION I STARTED THE BOOK ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. No, I did not know about the book starting on the Fourth of July, Mister Dr. Walker Percy. That was a coincidence. A coincidence engineered by you.

But we were running late for the pediatric dentist, for whom punctuality is of the essence, and I left you on the passenger seat. I looked back, thinking, “I can sneak back out to the parking lot once the children are preoccupied with dentist-based histrionics.”

There was no need. You were right there on the Pediatric Dentist Reading Material table, on the cover of Garden & Gun. How, by the way, did I not know that this magazine existed? Could there be a more perfect title for a magazine dedicated to 21st Century Southern America? There could not.

And, Walker Percy, you know what made it especially poignant? You’re being profiled by Doug Marlette. It was apparently the last thing he ever wrote.

Well, I’m sure you are trying to tell me something more profound than “get people to buy that magazine,” but I must pause to tell all two of my readers that they should run, not saunter, to their local magazine store and buy this issue.

…the Moviegoer was my favorite…I was convinced Walker Percy had written
my life…Walker Percy wrote about what it felt like, to me, to be alive in the twentieth century, i.e., dead. A portrait of the artist as a young
man: I remember once lying on the beach in Martinique at one of those Club
Med vacation resorts reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from
I was Binx Bolling.

I read that and thought, I am Doug Marlette. Not really, as I am a. female, b. not a cartoonist, c. incapable of discussing the groundbreaking work of Heinz Kohut on narcissistic personality disorders, which is apparently what you have to do if you’re going to get to eat a light lunch of chicken salad sandwiches and fresh tomatoes at Walker Percy’s house. But I am a person who has called the homeless shelter via cell phone while beachcombing in Florida. Doug Marlette and I, we have that disconnect thing in common.

Last night, I headed to Borders. I looked in the gardening section. I looked in the gun section. I decided to overcome my monumental fear of salespeople and ask the counter guy. “Would you be able to tell me if you carry a particular magazine?”

“Um…I’m not sure…what’s the title?”

Gardening and Guns, or Gunning for Gardens, or something.”

“Now, that magazine, I know we have, because someone was just talking to me about it.” We walk over to the “travel” section, which, for future reference, is where you’ll find the magazine. (Had I noticed the fine print, I would have figured this out. But Walker Percy meant for me to talk to the counter guy.)

“It’s got this incredible interview with Walker Percy.”

“That’s the article this guy was telling me about!”

And, as we looked for a cover featuring either a garden or a gun (nota bene: The Summer 2007 issue features a blonde surfer lady on the front), we compared which books we’d read. He was pretty new to Walker Percy and just finished The Last Gentleman. “And, you know, it’s weird, but the guy in it – he’s just like me. I mean, not in the things he does in the book, but I act just like he does.”

Hmmm. Maybe it’s Doug Marlette trying to contact me. But I don’t think so, because then counter guy says, “I’m like, ‘what are you trying to tell me, Walker Percy?’

It was afterwards that I Googled you and figured out the school-distant cousin connection. It’s possible I was in attendance at a slumber party phone call to your distant cousin. I stop before I incriminate myself.

So now I’ll sign off, finish Love in the Ruins, and wait for my next communique. I’m hoping the Heinz Kohut thing isn’t a prerequisite.

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  1. Deep Furrows says

    Wow! Definitely worth the wait. Be on the lookout for a message in the bottle 😉 ~Fred