42 / CHRONICLESnOPINIONSnThe Novel of Ideas by Thomas P. McDonnelln”Death must be distinguished from dying, with whichnit is often confused. “n—Rev. Sydney SmithnThe Thanatos Syndrome by WalkernPercy, New York: Farrar, Straus &nGiroux; $17.95.nThe rarest entity in American writingnis the novelist with ideasn—that is to say, one who is capable ofnwriting the ideological novel. Ofncourse, the term is enough to put anchill on what is in fact the novel ofnintelligence—even, one might add,nthe novel of intellectuality. The supremenmaster of the form was HenrynJames, obviously, whose like we havennot seen since his death in 1916.nOtherwise, I fear, the American novelistnis almost wholly glandular. In seriousnwriting, the most likely practitionersnof the form are probably ErnestnHemingway and Norman Mailer. Itnmay be said that John Updike hasnideas, however pretentious, but whichnare all expressed in a deftly controllednglandular mode. Saul Bellow may benour most intelligent novelist andnWalker Percy our most purely intellectual.nLest it be charged that we havenleft them out of something yet again,nmost women as novelists are almostnwholly and everywhere glandular.nIt is also peculiar to the case at handnthat the Southern novelist is, on thenwhole, much more intellectual thannhis northern counterpart. This maynclearly be seen, moreover, if we comparenNorman Mailer as the prototypennorthern novelist with Walker Percy asnthe prototype Southern novelist.nWhile the former is simply anarchistic,nthe latter has a firmly moderatednsense of the history of ideas. WalkernThomas P. McDonnell is a free-lancenwriter living near Boston.nPercy, not only as someone with bothna thorough medical background and anpassionate interest in semiotics, hasnwritten essays which are rather toontechnically abstruse even for the averagenwell-informed reader. He has, onnthe other hand, written essays whichnshould become classic examples of then, -.„-;i*;Vi,vJ/>’nnngenre in our own time. In short, thenreader may well know when WalkernPercy is an accessible writer and whennhe is not. He is, of course, mostnaccessible in the novels in which henpresents the ideas that are most importantnto him. This is especially so innview of the complexity of his thoughtnwhich has evolved since the publicationnof his first novel, the prizewinningnThe Moviegoer (1961), whichnbrought him immediate recognition.nThough some may contend that Then