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Happy Birthday Dr. Percy

Walker Percy
Toasts to mercy
And he drinks
To Kate and Binx.

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Southern writer Walker Percy (books by this author), born in Birmingham, Alabama (1916). Percy’s early life was marked by tragedy: his grandfather and father both committed suicide with shotguns, and his mother drowned when her car ran off the road into a stream. When his uncle in Greenville, Mississippi, adopted Percy and his little brothers, things took a turn for the better; it was there that he met his lifelong best friend, the neighbor boy Shelby Foote. As teenagers they took a trip to Oxford to meet their hero, William Faulkner — Percy was so overwhelmed that he stayed in the car as Foote and Faulkner talked on the porch.

Percy went off to college in Chapel Hill, and later to New York for medical school. He contracted tuberculosis and spent the next two years at a sanitarium. It was, he later said, “the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me a chance to quit medicine. I had a respectable excuse.”

Instead, Percy decided to be a full-time writer. He finished two novels—one was based on his experience at the sanitarium—neither of which he could not get published. [sic] But he kept at it, and his novel The Moviegoer (1961) came out when he was 45. A year later it won the National Book Award. Percy published five more novels and many essays.

In 1976 Percy was a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans when a woman called him, asking him to read her son’s manuscript. He felt guilty turning her down—the woman’s son had committed suicide in part because of his despair over not being able to find a publisher for his novel—so Percy agreed, and was so impressed that he conspired to get it published. The Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, went on to win a Pulitzer.

Comments

  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    Mr Potter, as Walker Percy’s successor, did you get to keep the

    BAD DOG
    STAY IN CAR
    HONK HORN

    sign?

  2. lickona says:

    I will now celebrate by attempting to write fiction for the next four hours.

  3. This post fits with the Percy theme of the blog.

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