Moviegoer was Percy’s The Sun AlsonRises—that is to say, his most originalnand perhaps most singular piece ofnwork—it is necessary to identify thenbody of his novels since then, to suggestnwhy this body of work will nondoubt become increasingly important.nThe titles are as follows: The LastnGentleman (1966); Love in the Ruinsn(1971); Lancelot (1977); The SecondnComing (1980); and currently ThenThanatos Syndrome (1987). Two pairsnof these novels deal with same mainncharacters: Will Barrett in The LastnGentleman and The Second Coming;nDr. Thomas More in Love in thenRuins and The Thanatos Syndrome.nAlso, Percy does not play lightly withnsuch obvious references from historynas Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), thenultimate layman at bay, and the greatnEnglish divine Lancelot Andrewesn(1555-1626) in Lancelot.nWhat emerges from a reading ofnPercy’s novels since The Moviegoer isnthat Walker Percy has clearly presentednto us, though surely not as his primarynintention, the most injured Christiannpsyche in the whole range of Anglo-nAmerican fiction at the waning of thencentury. The subtitle for Love in thenRuins is a bitter delectation, “ThenAdventures of a Bad Catholic at anTime Near the End of the World,”nwith its possible echoes from GeorgenBernard Shaw’s invidious little tractnThe Adventures of a Black Girl innSearch of God (1932). The loss ofntraditional values that caused EvelynnWaugh to die of a broken heart,nthough medical records won’t show it,nhas turned a survivor like Walker Percyninto the sole minimalist practicing thencraft of the so-called Catholic novelntoday — minimalist, because Percyndeals with essentials of belief that arenstripped of all the trappings of merenreligiosity.nPercy is far from being a masternstoryteller. Pages are not turned allnthat eagerly, except in scenes whichnare notable for both the tensilenstrength of their extended dialoguesnand the tensions of characters seeminglynreduced to ideologues on thenbrink of self-destruction. Scenereadingnis in fact the secret of readingnWalker Percy, as it is in reading almostnany novelist, especially when a givennnovel itself may on the whole be judgedna failure. And yet few failed novelsnof first-rate writers are totally irredeemable.nErnest Hemingway’s posthumousnThe Garden of Eden (1986), fornexample, contains some of the mostnexquisite scenes he has ever writtenneven though the sense of deja vu maynall but overwhelm the already initiatednreader. The point is nevertheless important.nOne of the most powerful scenesnpits the beleaguered psychiatrist Dr.nTom More against the equally beleaguerednFather Simon Smith, who isnensconced in a 100-ft. fire tower in thenLouisiana woods and won’t comendown. (Remember St. Simeon Stylites?)nLiterally speaking, it is Dr. TomnMore’s job to get to the bottom ofnEather Simon’s foolishness.nThe Thanatos Syndrome is a wonderfullyncomplex novel and has asnmany reflective surfaces as an expertlyncut and polished diamond. WalkernPercy can pack pages into vignettes of anfew paragraphs. His delineations havenan often devastating effect. This maynreadily be seen in some of the minorncharacterizations, such as the ex-JesuitnKev Kevin and ex-Maryknoll nunnDebbie Boudreaux, first married, thennof course separated. Debbie says ofnKev: “The trouble with you is you’renstill a closet Jesuit.” Kev says of Debbie:n”The trouble with you is you’venturned into the worst kind of maneatingnbitchy feminist.” After counselingnboth of them. Dr. Tom Morenmuses sadly:nI thought they did better,nlooked better, felt better asnFather Kev and Sister Theresenin the old days, and as priestnand nun, than as siddha Kev innhis new soft Maharishi voicenand a NOW Wicca Debbie innher stretch pants. If you set outnto be a priest and a nun, thennbe a priest and a nun, insteadnof a fake Hindu or a big-assednlady Olds dealer who is intonWicca—this from me, whonhad not had two thoughtsnabout God for years, let alonensin. Sin?nSo much, then, for the Kevs andnDebbies of the new progressivenchurch. Where once was solid doctrine,nthe options now are “in favor ofnbelief in community, relevance.ngrowth, and interpersonal relations,”netc. But even these beliefs will benabandoned. Debbie will become anbookkeeper in her father’s Nissannagency and Kev will write successfulnpaperback novels about nuns and exnuns,npriests and ex-priests. Soundnfamiliar?nAt the end, meanwhile, EathernSimon will have come down from thenfire tower to reach a kind of workingnagreement with himself and the world.nHe regains a quiet and unobtrusivenlevel of spiritual confidence—seeingnin the apparitions of the Blessed Virginnin Yugoslavia, for example, more evidencenfor the need of faith rather thannanything either spectacular or evennnotorious. The aesthetic fact remains,nhowever, that the major imprint left bynWalker Percy’s novels, and especiallynby this one, is the sense of a thoroughlyndamaged human nature. Everythingnin the book is made up of damagedngoods, the whole world out of whack,nas if redemption itself had been reversednor put on hold. This is problemnenough for the moralist, God knows,nbut where does it leave the novelist? Atnthis point, Percy has produced a brilliantlyndisturbing set of novels. Andnyet, we may ask, wither now WalkernPercy?nMOVING?nLET US KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!nTo assure uninterrupted delivery ofnChronicles, please notify us in advance.nSend change of address on this form withnthe mailing label from your latest issue ofnChronicles to: Subscription Department,nChronicles, P.O. Box 800, Mount Morris,nlUinois 61054.nName_nAddress.nCitynnnState. _Zip_nDECEMBER 19871 43n