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Doctor Thomas More
    or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lapsometer

Photo by Gsmith

Photo by Gsmith

About a month ago, I finished reading Dr Percy’s stab at science-fiction, Love in the Ruins. I had no time to blog about it then, and have little time to blog about it at the moment, but here are a few scattered, superficial, spoiler-free initial thoughts:

  • My overall impression was similar to that of Korrektiv fellow-traveler Craig Burrell, who reviewed the novel in 2011. Like him, I think the premise is great, but the telling of the tale is overlong and under-focused. Some severe trimming would have improved the book considerably.
  • That said, the main cast is nicely drawn, and the creeper-covered neo-New South setting felt, if not believably realistic, then persuasively consistent. Also consistently unsettling, with its islands of shiny modernity and pockets of old poverty amid the ruins of the [1940s-1960s(?) ’70s(?)] ‘Auto Age’. The automated carillon of the abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, playing religious and secular Christmas carols — and college football fight songs! — on the Fourth of July, echoing off a derelict drive-in movie screen, is especially haunting.
  • Overall, the book was not — and Dr Percy, in his essay ‘Concerning Love in the Ruins, says the book was not meant to be — a prophetic prediction of the future (as, e.g., Brave New World has ended up being). Still, this line from Dr Tom More, describing the gadgets of his own shambolic future-world, hit close to home: ‘Appliances […] are more splendid than ever before, but when they break down nobody will fix them.’
  • Percy also predicted the rise of steampunk! Tom More climbs into his colleague’s ‘electric Toyota bubbletop, a great black saucer of a car and silent as a hearse’ and notes the anachronistic contrast of its interior styling: ‘These days it is the fashion to do car interiors in wood and brass like Jules Verne vehicles.’
  • Speaking of stylistic throwbacks: The diabolical, deodorized, flat-topped Art Immelman reminds me of the Harry Trumanesque space alien from the ‘THE LAST DONAHUE SHOW’ thought experiment in Lost in the Cosmos. They both seem like good fits for a David Lynch movie.

Have you read Love in the Ruins? What did you see, like, dislike, feel, think?

Thrill me with your acumen.

Comments

  1. Nice kudzu!

    Thanks for the thoughts/reflections. I stalled out and am still trying to finish the book.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      The kudzu is nice to look at, but only as long as it’s green and leafy. Hoary, hairy kudzu is horrible at best, horrifying at worst.

      I de-prioritized finishing LITR for one or two long stretches, too, and let other books (and other things) jump the queue. As I say, there’s a lot to like, but a page-turner it ain’t.

      If you do get around to finishing LITR, please check in again at Korrektiv — your source for today’s hottest Walker Percy quasi-, pseudo-, and non-scholarship on the World Wide Web.

  2. It’s been a while since I read LITR, which I like to abbreviate as such to confuse the Tolkien people. I really liked it but I am a fan of science fiction, in general – and I basically give the whole book a pass because of Fr. Kev Kevin.

    I need to reread it, though, and I’m kind of surprised you hadn’t read it before – given that you seem to have read and memorized every book, ever.

    FILED UNDER: MAKING BETTER USE OF SPARE TIME THAN OTHER PEOPLE SUCH AS THE PERSON CURRENTLY TYPING THIS COMMENT

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Thought Experiment: Draw up an existential-semiotic self-profile or diagram indicating Professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s relation to his world, identity of self, movement of self vis-a-vis world, and placement of self in world as evidenced by mood and utterance.

      ***

      I’m a fan of science fiction and satire, too, and definitely an easy mark for Dr Percy’s foray into ‘genre’.

      ***

      [Y]ou seem to have read and memorized every book, ever.

      Flattering — but, sadly, very far from the truth. As just an example, I haven’t finished Foucault’s Pendulum, haven’t begun In Search of Lost Time, and remain entirely ignorant of large, large swaths of the Sweet Valley High canon.

      • the latter rarely circulate at the library so I don’t have to replace them on the shelves. soon they will disappear for good and this will be perhaps one of the last remembrances of their kind. moving on…

        I should probably get around to reading LitR. Having read Thanatos, I do want to hear more about the good doctor.

      • I feel like a f**king idiot. ha! I’d already read LitR… For some reason it didn’t make a big impression on me cause when I checked it out of the library and started reading, I realized I’d seen this all before. I guess I got parts mixed up with Thanatos or something.
        Of the points you mentioned in the first post, particularly the steampunk-type Jules Verne car interiors were cool!
        I’d agree with you on your use of the word “unsettling.” That was a vibe I got from the book through and through. Whether he’s worried about a sniper (mortal danger) or trying to make love to Lola in the bunker and apparently suffering from a (possibly deadly?) allergic reaction, the writing style conveyed no real sense of urgency. Perhaps that’s meant to be More’s mindset or something similar to the “malaise” of the Moviegoer- which I remember vaguely. This unsettling feeling becomes more understandable if I look at it as sci-fi. I need to tell myself going in not to expect it to be like life as I know it. Expect surreal situations and people. I guess that’s the point of Percy setting it in a not too far off “future.”
        Another point is that of the 3 Percy books I’ve read: LitR, Thanatos and Moviegoer, I wouldn’t recommend them to my dad.* There are parts of LitR he’d get a kick out of: such as Percy’s dark humor and wit and some of the jabs at liberals, but overall I dunno. He loved the Guy Crouchback trilogy of Waugh, particularly for Waugh’s razorsharp barbs at the British army and the writing in general. But while Guy has a bit of weariness, helplessness, whether dealing with the army around him or his wife, he is a more likable protagonist than More imao. More seems helpless in dealing with society outside of his small circle. Every conversation with Art or Dusty or the head doc seems to follow the same pattern. Everyone talks and doesn’t listen to poor ole Tom. He can only outdo Buddy Brown by dosing him with the lapsometer. So I guess that may be how we should see Tom? I can definitely see some of myself in his moments of introspection, so maybe that’s the source of part of my dislike haha
        I remember now minor annoyance at originally reading the ambivalence about politics and everyone being basically good people but that’s not a big quibble for me.
        I loved the bit in “the Pit.” Contrary to my earlier problem with the lack of “urgency” (for lack of a better word), this scene seems very well done. Percy’s descriptions of Doris his formerly Episcopal former wife were delicious. In fact his (decidedly un-pc) insights about people in general were great fun to read. But the first time I read it and now as I re-read it the story overall seems to start, rewind and start again and I would get lost in what was going on. Towards the end I caught up with the plot, but I’d agree with the diagnosis of it being “overlong and underfocused.”

        *footnote: I also read Endo’s Scandal a few months back, after seeing the cover grace a post here. Another novel by a Catholic writer which fails the “recommend to dad” test. Endo’s writer is similar to More in that he’s a believing Catholic who doesn’t partake of the sacraments. Scandal was a very strange read. I referred to it to a friend as surreal psychological horror. Still not sure what to think about it. Surely there’s more to this than a that’s why you always… go to Mass/confession message?

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

          Excellent, excellent! Thank you very much for revisiting the Ruins.

          Follow-up to follow up anon, sir.

          Until then,
          Pax!

    • Lapso McLapsy says:

      Ya’ll keep referring to science fiction, when Percy very clearly told his friend Shelby Foote that his new novel was about screwing and God. Metaphysics is a word, Bob.

  3. Southern Expat says:

    Also – I have learned to never recommend this as an introductory Percy novel. In fact, I find that most people to whom I recommend Percy don’t really care for him unless they start with The Moviegoer.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      A college library copy of Lost in the Cosmos was my Percy gateway drug — as was also the case with our own Mr Jonathan Potter.

      • Southern Expat says:

        Mine was Thanatos Syndrome! I am told I am quite atypical. Told by those in the know.

        • I started with The Moviegoer and Thanatos. Wasn’t as taken with the author as I was when I got hooked on GKC, but I’m not done with Percy. Need to make more time for reading books.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

            ‘Need to make more time for reading books.’

            Amen! A few times in a typical week, I find myself feeling like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode.

            • Angelico:
              Good news! A French foreign-exchange student/teammate of mine is watching Blade Runner & reading Androids for class. I’d never read the book so I got it from the library. Just finished it an hour ago.
              The first thing that jumped out at me was the Empathy boxes everyone seems to use in connection to the Mercer religion/cult. That and the Penfield mood devices. Dick wrote this in 1968… Percy wrote LitR in 1971.
              I cannot make any comparison, having not read LitR, only Thanatos which didn’t seem to make much mention of the lapsometer.
              Deckard seems to be presented as a regular guy who realized some sort of martyrdom-as-life, with the mood altering devices and empathy boxes already standard issue in his world.
              After the snow subsides, I’ll see about borrowing a copy of LitR.

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                If/when you do get a chance to read LitR, Paul, and if/when you have any thoughts about its relation to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, please come back and share them! Like anyone else, I’ve seen a bunch of movies loosely based on PKD stories, but the only book of his I have read is The Man in the High Castle, which I highly recommend. Have you read that one? And would you recommend Androids — at least to a science-fiction fan?

                Your description of a culture in which ‘mood altering devices and empathy boxes [are] standard issue’ reminds me of Brave New World, where mood-altering drugs (Soma – ‘A gramme is better than a damn!’) are also ‘standard issue’.

    • LITR was the first Percy book that I picked up–shortly after it was published–and I don’t think I made it through the first chapter, but then, at that time I probably wouldn’t have liked The Moviegoer either as at that time I was a complete dolt. I was, however, well above the Sweet Valley High level, even if they had been written, but I doubt if they could have gotten published at that time.

      AMDG

  4. I started with LITR, and was simply, utterly delighted. The story didn’t matter to me nearly so much as the individual scenes. The Pit, The Howard Johnson’s, The Love Clinic, the Swamp, Tara…oh, it goes on and on. Jesus, the Greatest Pro of Them All! Early Times! Ah, well. More soon.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      ‘I started with LITR, and was simply, utterly delighted.’*

      *For further details, see Swimming with Scapulars by Matthew Lickona, pp. 93-94.

      (That’s right.)

      ‘The story didn’t matter to me nearly so much as the individual scenes.’

      Now, that is a great point. Mr Burrell and I both faulted the book for being too diffuse. As he wrote:

      [T]here were many apparently pointless episodes, too many peripheral characters without sufficient characterization […]. If the book had been half its length, it would have been improved.

      I agreed with that up until I read your comment. But now you’ve gotten me to turn the universe upside-down and, like Copernicus and Einstein, start with a new assumption. Now I’m thinking that maybe, since the individual parts of LITR are so enjoyable, so clever, and — often — so strong, perhaps Percy shouldn’t have focused the story into something smaller and sharper. Maybe he should have made it more of a shaggy-dog story, a rambling exploration of his setting and characters like A Confederacy of Dunces, but with his philosophical and religious ideas as unifying threads. Possibly more on this later.

  5. I hold Love in the Ruins in special awe – and find it the most perfect thing Percy did.

    Now, qualifiers: by perfect, I don’t mean story, plotting, characterization, etc., all the stuff that generally makes a creative writing teacher wet his pants – but rather, given that Percy’s fiction kind of exists in a no-man’s land between poetry and philosophy (he shares space there with Dostoevsky, Camus and Rabelais) Love in the Ruins was the perfection of this style – found first in The Moviegoer, further perfected in Last Gentleman (Sutter alone, worth price of admission), and attaining its apotheosis in Dr. Tom More.

    By contrast, I would argue that Lancelot is his most “literary” and therefore most cultivated with conventions, and Second Coming and Thanatos were the logical conclusion of something started in the “prequels” if I can use that term. Having constructed More and Barrett and yet left them unresolved at the end of LG and LITR. I would posit that Binx and Lancelot are at least more resolved as characters – but that’s another arguement for another time), these aftherthought novels, Second Coming and Thanatos, provide the solution to the characters’ – and perhaps, as a writer, Percy’s own – reentry.

    I would heartily recommend that anyone who reads Love in the Ruins ought to read Gargantua and Pantagruel and THEN read Love in the Ruins again. You’ll see, as Mr. Lickona did, that the parts are greater than the whole – and that’s the magic of it. “There are so many ways in which this novel could have been screwed up,” says another friend who read Love – and is generally far pickier in his tastes than I am – “but Percy navigated all of them with near-perfection.”

    Was it Percy or someone else who said that the point of satire is not to simply tear down, but to simultaneously build up? When I finished Love in the Ruins, I had hope for the crazy world where before I had none. Maybe not the best way to judge a book, but if we are to judge Percy it ought not be on his literary merits alone – but how he uses fiction as a springboard for his philosophy. What makes Percy unique in this way – much as Plato, say, or Percy’s aesthetic mentor Dostoesvsky is his ability to show us the world as an integrated whole – body and soul – and in so showing us reacquaints us with our own place in it.

    JOB

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Thrilling acumen, brah! Thanks for taking the time to articulate these thoughts; I look forward to responding in kind, soonish.

  6. Imelda/Sophia, O.P. says:

    Figures I’d have to follow JOB. Ah well, that’s nothing new. (Prof. Gregory: “Yes. Thanks for the comment, Sophia. Let’s hear your thoughts, [JOB].”)

    My direct experience of the work of Walker Percy begins and ends with Love in the Ruins, a copy of which was given to me by another member of the Korrektiv. I went in, let us say *warily*, and finished in tears. The good kind, for all the reasons that have been stated here. And I will just go ahead and quote JOB because his response here perfectly mirrors my own (or vice versa, more likely):

    “When I finished Love in the Ruins, I had hope for the crazy world where before I had none.”

    Perhaps it is time to pick up the novel again; I need that hope rekindled.

    Thanks for this post, Brother Angelico!

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      Sister Imelda, thank you for checking in! I’ve been wondering how you were.

      (Me, I’ve been too swamped even to do commemorative posts on Ss Raymond of Peñyafort and Thomas Aquinas. But not to worry: We’ll get some more Dominicana on this blog in due time.)

      If you do re-read Love in the Ruins, and you have thoughts to share, please bring them to Korrektiv.

      Also be aware that the Kollektiv is planning to read Dr Percy’s even-more-therapeutic Lost in the Cosmos as a Reading Klub selection within the next few months; details forthcoming. The more, the merrier!

  7. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    !!! SPOILERS BELOW !!!

    Ellen, Paul S., and anyone else who hasn’t read Love in the Ruins, but might want to someday: Notice is hereby given that you’d best cover your ears and plug your eyes, because I’m about to mention some plot developments. If you don’t like to know in advance what will happen in the books you read, the below might spoil your enjoyment of Love in the Ruins.

    !!! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED !!!

    ***

    5

    4

    2

    (Just kidding!)

    3

    2

    1

    !!! SPOILERS COMMENCE !!!

    ***

    1) LAPSOMETRY

    Does the lapsometer figure in to The Thanatos Syndrome at all?

    I was struck by the fact that, in the epilogue of LITR, Tom is still tinkering with the lapsometer. ‘Now that there is no danger of diabolical abuse’, Tom tells Colley, ‘the future is bright.’ Percy could have presented this machine that scans brain activity to diagnose problems of the soul as somehow inherently contradictory and/or inherently sinister. But, as JOB says above, Percy shows the world as ‘an integrated whole’. And man — neither angel nor beast, but uniting the rationality of the former with the physicality of the latter — is the microcosm of that integrated whole. If we grant that brain and soul are intimately connected — even though distinct — it makes at least as much sense as not that a brain-scan gadget could help diagnose and treat disorders of the soul.

    I wonder, though, about Art Immelman’s modification — the attachment that reverses the flow of the lapsometer’s signals, and turns it from a device that reads brain-states into one that alters them. I can’t recall that the Immelman-hacked lapsometer brain-massage function ever had a good effect in the story, and of course it almost brought about the end of (what was left of) civilization (on a local level, at least). But sex and drink bring Tom to the brink of damnation, and music helps distract him from the danger to his soul while luring him to it; he certainly doesn’t repudiate the sex (see the last line of the book!), and I don’t think he gives any sign that he’s sworn off the drink or the music, either. He’s just learning to order his priorities and use, rather than abuse, these dangerous but legitimate (and valuable) gifts, no? To me, a lapsometric brain-massage seems to belong to the same category as those other dangerous-but-legitimate gifts, which happen to stimulate the brain mediately through the senses and/or through chemistry, rather than through straight-to-the-brain electromagnetic waves. In practice, Art Immelman’s hack may be too dangerous to use, for some people or maybe for all people — as alcohol is too dangerous for some people to drink. But it’s not bad in theory. Hence the title of this post.*

    What do you all think?

    ***

    2) JANE-AUSTENING

    I’m curious what everyone, but especially you married folk, thought of Tom and Ellen as a couple. Does their pairing make sense to you? Despite their religious differences, do you think they seem ‘good’ for each other in any of the ways you think are important?

    Tom’s first wife sounds like a nightmare, and Moira like a nightmare waiting to happen. Thoroughly unappealing characters, those two. But as for the other ladies in Dr More’s life — and maybe this is just my callowness talking — however much I respected Ellen as a character, and would like to have her as a colleague at the clinic, I found myself considerably more susceptible to Lola’s charms. O elders: Am I in need of a korrektiv here?

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      *The working title for this post was, ‘Early Times at the Eleventh Hour’.

    • Angelico, can you explain more about why you are not bothered by the idea of a “lapsometric brain-massage?” To me, this does not fall into the category of sex, drink, and music, although I would not have a problem with adding writing to that category.

      It’s been a while since I read the novel, and I don’t remember very well what part Art Immelman plays in the story. But I’m squeamish, on the face of it, about a machine that presumes to tinker around with illnesses of the soul.

      • Rachel,
        I make frequent use of a machine that tinkers with the illnesses of the soul. It’s mostly made of glass, but there’s a cork that regulates the delivery of the therapy.

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

          Corn mash, more than Chrysostomos,
          Salves the soul of Matt Lickona’s.

          Rachel,

          Without venturing to spell out the relationship between ‘brain’, ‘soul’, ‘mind’, and ‘self’ (not having gone to a Catholic college, I just don’t know!), I do think it is fair to say that 1) physical phenomena change brain-states, 2) changes in brain-states correspond — maybe sometimes, maybe always — to changes in mental states, and 3) changes in mental states correspond — maybe sometimes, maybe always — to changes in soul-states.

          Alcohol and other drugs tinker with illnesses of the soul by means of chemistry: Chemicals go from mouth to stomach to bloodstream, and from bloodstream to a) the brain itself, and b) to other organs that then communicate with the brain. The result is a change in brain-state, mental state, and — at least sometimes — soul-state.

          Music and other sounds tinker with illnesses of the soul by means of compression waves: Compression waves vibrate the ear, which translates the vibrations into electrical signals and communicates them to the brain. The result: change in brain-state, change in mental state, and, sometimes, change in soul-state.

          The lapsometer tinkers with illnesses of the soul by means of what I think are supposed to be electromagnetic waves: Electromagnetic waves pass right through the skin and skull, communicating with the brain. Result: See ‘alcohol’ and ‘music’, supra. They all — alcohol/music/lapsometer, chemical/compression wave/electromagnetic wave — seem analogous to me. Music may elevate the soul, but only if it has first stimulated one’s brain — which is to say, altered one’s brain state. It’s like a lapsometer with a few extra steps.

          But what do you think?

          • Actually, anything that tinkers with the body, from brushing your teeth to surgery, affects the soul. As Body and soul are more like a solution than a mixture, it’s impossible to tinker with one without tinkering with the other.

            Rachel, Immelman is the enemy of our souls. The lapsometer is neutral. You might use it for good, but AI intends to use it for evil.

            AMDG

            • This is going to be a hasty and woefully insufficient response, but: I think the difference between music and alcohol, on the one hand, and the modified lapsometer, on the other, has to do with what you said when you mentioned that the former “happen to stimulate the brain mediately through the senses.” Using the lapsometer to minister to one’s despair/anger/etc seems as though it would be trying to fix something immediately that should be fixed mediately. I.e. it is a shortcut (and perhaps an inappropriate one).

              I don’t know if I’ve made any sense. One last stab, though, for now, at an explanation of why I am bothered by the idea of the lapsometer qua therapy. Maybe it was Southern Expat who put this into my head, when she brought up Tolkien–but at any rate, I am wondering if using the lapsometer might be a bit like using the ring of power. I guess it seems to me as though use of it might be inherently corrupting.

              I am happy to recieve korrektions on this, though. And thank you for the reminder re Art Immelman as a character, Janet!

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                Oh, how I hope we haven’t reached a you-see-it-or-you-don’t impasse, Rachel! I will give this some thought and respond when possible. If you — or anyone else — have additional thoughts before then (and time to type them up), I’d love to read them. Anyhow, more to follow.

                • Well, as usual per me, I can see both sides of this.

                  I see, Rachel, what you are saying about the Ring and the lapsometer. Part of the difference between alcohol and the lapsometer is that there is someone wielding the laspsometer and that’s probably way too much control for one person to have over another. Even with music, where there is someone else writing the music and performing the music, there is a sort of mediation that goes on in your own brain when you hear it. The lapsometer is very direct and you have no control.

                  It reminds me of the Mule in Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. Have you read that?

                  AMDG

                  • Matthew Lickona says:

                    Doesn’t More give himself a massage with the lapsometer at one point? I don’t know if you have to have someone else holding the stick.

                    • That’s true. And, of course, the ring works on you all by itself even when you aren’t wearing it.

                      AMDG

                    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                      In fact, he lapsometrizes himself more than once, indicating that — like any of the other repeatable means of cushioning the thousand natural (and preternatural?) shocks that flesh (and spirit?) are heir to — use of the lapsometer can become addictive.

                      (And speaking of the danger of the device: Recall that Art Immelman’s modification to the lapsometer adds a gun-barrel-like attachment, so that Tom compares his first autolapsometrization to suicide by pistol.)

                      Here, by the bye, is a passage from late in the book that shows some of the immediate context and immediate consequences of Tom’s lapsometric self-abuse:

                      Switch to Early Times today. Eat Ellen’s sandwiches? 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 [Is he building up a tolerance for lapsometry, as he has for alcohol? -A.N., E., OP] of Brodmann 11, the frontal location of the musical-erotic.

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

                      The albumen molecules hum.

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

                      [Angelism, Caution. -A.N., E., OP]

                      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?

                      Art Immelmann is right. Man is not made for suffering, night sweats, and morning terrors.

                      Doctor, heal thyself, I say, and give Brodmann 11 one last little buzz.

                      [Two gin fizzes, two lapsometric buzzes. -A.N., E., OP]

                      I feel much better, full of musical-erotic tenderness and gin fizzes and bourbon but fresh and clean and ravenous as well. I eat more of Ellen’s sandwiches.

                      [Bestialism, Caution. -A.N., E., OP]

                      Time to fetch Lola’s cello […].

                    • In thinking about this more, I suspect that my technophobia is at the root of my discomfort with the lapsometer.

                      I have more thoughts on the question, but no time, alas, to frame them appropriately.

                      I’ll just say, for now, that the passage you just cited, Angelico, is definitely apropos. I will write more later, I hope.

                    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                      I look forward to whatever you have to say, whenever you say it, Rachel.

                      For what it’s worth, my own technophilia inclines me to like gadgets such as the lapsometer — though even taking that into account, I still stand by what I’ve written above. It’s not that I find the lapsometer unproblematic; it’s that I find it problematic in about the same way I find, e.g., drugs problematic — which is to say, problematic enough that I asked not to have general anesthetic when the dentist extracted my wisdom teeth, but no so problematic that I wasn’t very happy indeed to get local anesthetic.

                  • Southern Expat says:

                    Now I need to reread ALL of these books! Good analogy, Janet…

  8. I love Love in the Ruins. I completely recognize the South he describes as the place where I live. I love the image of the creeping vines, probably because I there are at least 7 or 8 kinds of vines surrounding my house, encroaching upon my house, trees, outbuildings, and fields. I particularly love Fr. Kev Kevin and laugh every time I think about him. I love the Dante-ish part at the beginning.

    I’ve read all of Percy’s fiction, a good deal of his non-fiction and a great deal about him. Many times when I read about an author whose work I really like, I am sorry that I did, but reading about Percy I developed a great fondness for him. I would sometimes like to kick Shelby Foote, whose house is less than a mile from where I sit, but unfortunately he is not there any longer.

    BTW, did you know that kudzu has flowers? And yes, it looks pretty awful at the moment.

    AMDG

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      The South where I grew up (Arkansas) isn’t quite as deep as Percy’s or Foote’s, but I, too, recognize the setting of Love in the Ruins, Janet. Ditto the Vaughts’ Alabaman suburbia from The Last Gentleman. It’s a rare setting for a story, isn’t it? But thanks to Percy, it’s forever certified.

      No, I had no idea there was such a thing as a kudzu flower; it sounds like a joke. Or a sobriquet from the George W. Bush administration.

      If you can’t get rid of your local kudzu, here’s hoping it at least resumes its greener and slightlier mode soon.

      Thanks for the comment, Janet!

      • I lived for most of my life in Memphis and I still work here, but about 11 years ago we moved 40 miles south into rural Mississippi. That summer as I was driving around, I noticed something purple peeping out from under the kudzu leaves. Finally, I stopped one day and took a picture, which I can’t find at the moment, but what I saw looked pretty much like this. The flowers have a pretty strong grape-y scent–not like grapes, but like grape Koolaid.

        Although I have friends who would growl if they heard me say this, I have a kind of affection for kudzu because of the mysterious shapes that they create on the landscape. For example, there is a ghostly figure peeping out from behind that tree on the left, and to the left of that there is a triceratops and a Scotty standing on its hind legs.

        AMDG

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

          A grape Kool-Aid blossom?! I wonder if a kudzu tisane would be worth drinking….

          And you’re right: Kudzu = instant topiary!

          • Tisane indeed.

            Apparently both root and flower. Haven’t tried it myself.

            My husband just finished watching the David Suchet Poirot–every episode, almost every night for a long time. I have heard the word “tisane” from the next room often lately.

            AMDG,
            Janet

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

              Well well well, maybe you could get you a tea-harvester’s basket and go out and monetize your local kudzu infestation.

              This sentence, from Wikipedia’s page on the David Suchet Poirot, caught my eye:

              Post-2004 episodes display the increasing use of religious themes and plot elements not found in Christie’s novels and harkening instead to the work of authors such as Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene.

              An Agatha Christie world… with a whiff of Waugh and a shade of Greene? Janet, do you know if Wikipedia is right about this?

              • It’s been a very long time since I read Christie. Maybe 30 years ago I read most of her mysteries and then stopped because I didn’t want to run out in my 30s, but I never finished them. I haven’t seen the BBC episodes since they first came out and when my husband watched them, I was only catching an occasional bit from the next room. I don’t, however, remember anything that made me think of Greene or Waugh. Most of the religion in both books and videos is of the new age-y, seance-y type. I’ll ask my husband when he come in.

                I’m having trouble imagining Christie cum Waugh and Greene. Christie is a plot with the characters filling sort of pat roles as needed. They are just types. With Waugh and Greene it’s mostly complex, unique characters with the plot at the service of their development. You couldn’t just pick up Sebastian Flyte or Maurice Bendrix and plop them down in another story like you could with Christie’s characters.

                About The Thanatos Syndrome and the lapsometer–he only mentions the lapsometer once, saying that in the past he might have used it to measure his patients’ neurones, but now he sees there’s more to it than neurones. He’s exploring their psyches now. Have you read it?

                People do make soap with kudzu here. I’m not sure if they think it’s beneficial in some way or whether it’s just a gimmick to attract tourists.

                AMDG

          • Matthew Lickona says:

            TAGGED WITH: WHAT IF THE OVERLOOK HOTEL HAD BEEN IN DARKEST MISSISSIPPI?

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

              WHAT IF DIE HARD TOOK PLACE…

              ON A BUS?

              ON A CRUISE SHIP?

              ON A BATTLESHIP?

              ON A TRAIN?

              ON A COMMERCIAL JET?

              ON AIR FORCE ONE?

              AT THE WHITE HOUSE?

        • Southern Expat says:

          At first I thought you were talking about wisteria and I got so homesick.

  9. Also, I meant to say that I have trouble recognizing the Will Barrett of The Last Gentlemen in The Second Coming, but that doesn’t affect my appreciation of the book.

    AMDG

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