From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson

While most of the action in Love in the Ruins takes place in early July, there are a number of intimations of Christmas. This looks forward to the final section, “Five Years Later”, which takes place on Christmas Eve (and must therefore be five-and-a-half years later). Several Christmas hymns are quoted: The Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and there’s even an early premonition of Kwaanza in Percy’s invention of Lomghu6, a holiday named for the Bantu god of the winter solstice and celebrated by the black (African-American) radicals in the novel.

Amidst all this, there’s a curious use of a song popular at the time, Everybody’s Talkin’, sung here by Harry Nilsson. The song was used in the 1969 movie, Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (and the only X-rated movie to be given the Academy Award for Best Picture). Here’s the context in Percy’s novel:

Take a shower. The water is hot at first from the sun, two hundred feet of bitter hot hose water between the motel and the Esso station, then suddenly goes cold.

A harsh toweling. Switch to an early Times toddy. Eat Ellen’s sandwhiches? No, drink two gin fizzes. Go fetch lapsometer, tiptoeing past Ellen, who sleeps, lips parted.

Now at mirror, set lapsometer for a fairly stiff massage of Brodman 11, the frontal location of the musical-erotic.

The machine sings like a tuning fork. My head sings with it, teh neurones of Layer IV dancing in tune.

The albumen molecules hum.

Everybody’s talking at me,
I can’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.

What does a man live for but to have a girl, use his mind, practice his trade, drink a drink, read a book, and watch the martins wing it for the Amazon and the three-fingered sassafras turn red in October?

By zapping himself with the Lapsometer, More is really just piling even more disorientation on top of the toddies and fizzes. Although he seems to himself to be restored to pre-lapsarian status, he has really only been left with the echoes of his own mind – beyond communication and indeed communion with his fellow men, and in particular, women.


  1. almostgotit says

    Wow, I’ve not read this Percy novel for a long time.

    It occurs to me that you might (?) be interested in this blogging author, James Viscosi, who recently posted this short story

    I’ve not asked James if he’s ever read Walker Percy. I should do that.

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