Percy’s Thanatos Syndrome is #5

… on National Review’s “list of ten great conservative novels, written by Americans since the 1950s.” John Miller has written an article for the latest issues on these novels, including a short review of each one. A discussion leading to the formation of the list can be found at Miller’s own website.

I count myself as a fairly serious reader, and I hadn’t even heard of two of the novels, The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton, and Shelley’s Heart, by Charles McCarry, but the Kanton looks especially good and I’m putting it in the queue. And I never did get around to John Dos Passos’ Midcentury or Mark Helprin’s Freddy and Fredericka. And I won’t be too unhappy if I never do.

On Miller’s website there is a fair amount of discussion as to whether Percy should be considered a “conservative” novelist at all, which of course depends on your discussion of conservative. I suppose so, or at least I think a good case can be made that he was conservative by the time he wrote Thanatos Syndrome. Trying to extrapolate from this whether Percy would have voted for McCain or Obama in the ’08 election was a kind of floating around this website in the runup to the vote, with fairly dismal results (in my estimation).

I think a clearer case for conservatism can be discerned in the novels of Tom Wolfe and Dos Passos, but the real problem with the list is that it leaves out so many great novels … Gravity’s Rainbow, Operation Shylock, Beauty of the Lilies … the list goes on and on. And why politicize novels that aren’t intended to be political? I recall reading in NR, numerous times, that the disinclination to politicize everything under the sun was a conservative position. Which may well be true, making such a list as this unacceptably liberal. Don’t even read it, or your mind will be poisoned.


  1. Depends what you mean by conservative. Atlas Shrugged?

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    It's kind of depressing that the absence of politics makes a work "conservative". It kind of ties into what Percy indicated about the Soviet Union being an even more death dealing civilization than America.

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