pedestrian writing bespeaks a superficialrnunderstanding. How, for example, doesrnthe notion that “his casual dress reflectedrnhis inner spirit and put people at ease”rnsquare with the fact that Percy was intenselyrnshy, and what is a “casual” innerrnspirit anyway? Finally, the biographer’srnuse of the too familiar “Walker” throughout,rnthough a minor flaw, is an indicativernone.rnThe best that can be said of this bookrnis that the author has avoided two of thernbiographical writer’s basic sins. Sam wayrndoes not distort or pervert the material tornhis own ends, nor does he indulge in posturing.rnHis respect for his subject is apparent.rnYet this same respect, perhaps,rnprompted him to drop subjects or omitrndetails that might be embarrassing orrnhurtful to Percy’s family and friends, resultingrnin inconsequential detail mixedrnwith curious silences on important issues,rnoften leaving the reader dangling.rnSamway casually verifies suspicions laterrnon in an aside, an irksome techniquernat best. While seeming to issue from arnsense of delicacy, such omissions arerncounterbalanced by Samway’s unflinchingrndiscussion of Percy’s trouble withrnflatulence and his addiction to Metamucil.rnAlthough Jay Tolson’s 1992 biography.rnWalker Percy: Pilgrim in the Ruins,rnis unquestionably the better of the two.rnThe Correspondence ofrnShelby Footern&rnWalker Percyrn^^Thave in mind a futuristicrn1 novel dealing with therndecline and fall of the U . S . . . . Ofrnthat and the goodness of God, andrnof the merriness of living quiternanonymously in the suburbs,rndrinking well, cooking out, attendingrnMass. . . the goodness ofrnBrunswick bowling alleys . . .rncoming home of an evening, withrnthe twin rubies of the TV transmitterrnin the evening sky, havingrn4 drinks of good sourmash.”rn—Walker Percy to Shelby Foote,rnon the genesis of Love in the Ruins.rnWalker Percy: A Life does offer a differentrnapproach, and thus an additional opportunityrnto view the life of an extraordinaryrnthinker and writer. While Samway mayrnnot have a great understanding to impartrnto the reader, his subject does, and evenrnthe details of Walker Percy’s life are a fullrnmeasure.rnIn the Lysis, Plato’s dialogue onrnfriendship, Socrates says that he wouldrnrather have a good friend “than the bestrnquail or cock to be found,” “than therngold of Darius,” or “Darius himself” Arnfriendship sustaining to mind and spirit,rnof inestimable worth, was enjoyed byrnWalker Percy and Shelby Foote, as theyrnthemselves reveal in The Correspondencernof Shelby Foote & Walker Percy, a collectionrnof their letters edited by Jay Tolson.rnWhat is initially most striking in these lettersrnis the differences between the twornfriends, Percy’s irony and circumspectionrnproviding an effective contrast tornFoote’s exuberance and optimism as expressedrnin, among other things, theirrnwriting habits. Foote outlined his novelsrncarefully before he wrote them, whereasrnPercy allowed his own to evolve more organically.rnAlso, because Percy’s philosophicalrnbent often led him into bogs ofrnabstraction, fiction gave him a mediumrnfor embodying the ideas he had workedrnout in his mind; conversely, fiction gavernFoote, a man centered in the concrete, arnmeans of discovery. Yet their differencesrnas men and artists helped to establish arncompatibility that is captured in Percy’srnreflection on their Greenville years; “Wernwere each other’s college.”rnIn other ways, Percy and Foote werernvery similar. Tolson’s observations thatrnthey were “more observers than participants”rnand that “both were witty, prematurelyrncynical, irreverent, and generallyrnattuned to each other’s humor” find confirmationrnin the letters. The two friendsrnwere consummate Southerners and outspokenrncivil rights supporters (Percy forrnreligious rather than for sociological orrnlegal reasons), and, though politicallyrnliberal, they were independent in theirrnthinking, avoiding strict partisanship. Interestingly,rneach believed that NationalrnReview treated his work most thoughtfijlly;rn”Maybe we’re conservatives after all,”rnPercy adds wryly in passing. It must alsornbe more than simple coincidence thatrnPercy received The Ingersoll Foundation’srnprestigious T.S. Eliot Award forrnLiterature in 1987 and Foote won itsrnRichard M. Weaver Award for ScholarlyrnLetters a decade later.rnThe Foote-Percy correspondence inrnfact belongs predominantly to Foote, hisrnletters being greater in number (Percyrnkept them from 1948, while Foote didrnnot begin saving Percy’s side of the exchangernuntil roughly 1970) as well asrnlonger and more expansive. In additionrnto personal news and in-depth commentrnon his own work, Foote’s letters includernlengthy discussions of books, movies,rnmusic, and writing. The breadth andrndepth of Foote’s reading (and re-reading)rnis astounding; he is invariably goingrnthrough Proust or Dostoyevsky or Danternor whomever for the ninth or tenth time.rnYet his greatest attention is often directedrntoward advising and encouraging Percyrnin his writing. Even after Percy won thernNational Book Award and seemed to bernestablished, Foote continued to give hisrnfriend unflagging support (and admonishment,rnwhen he felt Percy needed it).rnIf the reader finds Foote’s tone occasionallyrnexcessive, he is only seconding Footernhimself, who, late in the correspondence,rnapologizes for his didacticismrnand counts Percy a “saint” for having putrnup with him. Otherwise, Foote is unfailinglyrncharming and usually right (we canrnforgive him for his dismissal of FlanneryrnO’Connor as a “minor-minor writer”).rnAmong the liveliest passages in the bookrnare his irreverent updates on his 20-yearlongrnCivil War project. On Septemberrn8, 1960, he writes, “By the end of thernmonth I expect to have killed StonewallrnJackson dead as a mackeral”; on Januaryrn19, 1970, he is “finally back on pulse,rncrossing the Chattahoochee with Shermanrnand getting ready to send a bulletrnstraight up James Birdseye McPherson’srnass. A good lodgment”; and by July 10,rn1973, he is nearing the end: “I’m workingrnlike a fiend, cooking Bobby Lee’srngoose but good.”rnEven though they are fewer, shorter,rnand more improvisational, Percy’s lettersrnhave their own dramatic presence. Wittyrnand self-deprecating, they are generallyrnintrospective. While Foote is self-assured,rnjudging the world in terms ofrnblack and white, Percy is troubled by therngrey. Tolson’s claim that the reader finishesrnthe letters “understanding theserntwo men almost as well as they understoodrneach other” may overstate the casernsomewhat, but one certainly leaves thernvolume with a feeling for the personal intensityrnof each of these writers, and arnstrong impression of a deeply connectedrnfriendship spanning a period of 60rnyears.