Rally, Korrektiv, rally?

Oh, how all occasions do inform against us…the dark word has reached us that, besides Expat and Nguyen, Ryan Charles Foster Kane has been waylaid and will not be in attendance in New Orleans this weekend.

But he did make this awesome broadside for the occasion, and everyone should buy one.



  1. You guys have fun. We’ll miss seeing all of you this year. Betty and Darwin and I are having our own shindig up here in the Great Autumn-Colored North since I’m too fat to travel anywhere but within a few hours’ distance of home. Paint the Prytania red for us, and take some pix.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Both Expat and Ryan are no-shows, too?

    Putatively bad news, but secretly not so bad: You all who actually made it to New Orleans will be fewer and, presumably, proportionally less merry (which is the bad news); but I, who couldn’t make the trip, can take consolation from knowing that I’m missing out on less fun than might otherwise have been the case.

    And Ryan, if you’re reading: Excellent poster.

    • Angelico, would you consider posting (parts of) the David Foster Wallace paper to the blog?

      Please don’t feel yourself under any obligation to say yes, especially if you are hoping to present / publish it at some later date. I just think it was a great idea for a paper, and am interested in what you would have said in it.

      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says


        I’m delighted to know you went to the conference, though sorry to have missed the chance to hear your presentation and meet you in person.

        Thank you for your kind words and interest in the Percy/Wallace paper. As yet, there’s nothing there fit for human consumption. (What’s more: Judging by Mr Potter’s Twitter-summary of Jennifer Levasseur’s paper, her examination of Zweig via Percy sounds scarily similar to what the Wallace paper would have been, maybe rendering the latter redundant!) Still, I do intend to keep taking fairly thorough notes as I continue reading both Percy and Wallace. Some of those notes probably will end up on the blog, and may lead to some future essay or presentation. Thanks again for your interest!

        Did anybody record video or audio of your session?

        How closely did the members of the Kollektiv you met correspond to the versions you’d carried in your mind?

        • Jonathan Potter says

          I’m curious about this, too. We all sort of did a dumb-ox slow-motion double take while figuring out that this Rachel was *that* Rachel. Lickona said he pictured the commenting Rachel as a withered old wise woman. (My paraphrase.) I had pictured her as a chubby genius teenager from a small town in Idaho or Nevada. So it took us about a half a day to triangulate to the lovely/smart/shy PhD candidate from the Texas oil fields by way of Vanderbilt and the medieval Bouches-du-Rhône.

          I confess (to my shame) I hadn’t fully tuned in to how pervasive (not to mention perceptive) Rachel’s comments have been. I just did some looking in the guts of Word Press, however, and discovered an extensive trail of evidence going back to what I believe I have identified as her first appearance here — as “Fellow Traveler.” Am I correct, Rachel, in zeroing in on this comment from Dec 1, 2011, as your very first?

          Fellow Traveler says:
          December 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

          I don’t have nearly as many problems with Percy’s depiction of women as I do with his depiction of men and their relation to women.

          For this reason I’ve had regrets about recommending him to most of the male acquaintances to whom I have lent out my (seldom returned) copies of The Moviegoer.

          Percy is safer for women to read than he is for men.

          And to the Ironic Catholic: I would read that post. [IC had proposed writing a post on Kierkegaard and women that would “make Percy look like Oprah.”]

          • The Shrubbery says

            To be fair, she caught us off-guard and not at our best – which is to say, sober. And since I don’t have ears, I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure that Lickona never used the word “withered.”

          • Oh, wow. Yes, I did write that. And yes, that may very well have been the first time I commented, here, although I think I had been reading for several months beforehand.

            I’m flattered (and tickled) by all three portraits, above (“withered” or not).

        • Angelico: Alas, I was not there for Jennifer’s paper, although I would like to have been. Please do share your notes, as you see fit! I haven’t read a lot of DFW, but liked The Pale King, and also this. And I started reading Infinite Jest, but am not quite sure that now is the time for that particular project.

          As far as I know my paper was not documented in either of the ways you mention.

          I had a pretty accurate idea of what Matthew and JOB looked like, I think, because of photo evidence on the blog, but really had no clue when it came to Quin. And I knew that Jonathan was a librarian, but still wasn’t quite prepared, I don’t think, for him to be quite as fittingly librarian-like as he turned out to be.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

            Rachel, pity your presentation wasn’t recorded! Percy’s insight into amnesia-as-plot-device (and the popularity thereof) is valuable. No pressure, but if you would like to post some excerpts from your own paper, you’d have a ready reader here.

            As for DFW, I haven’t read much of his output either, but I do like the commencement speech, and really like The Pale King. And, like you, I’m not yet feeling completely ready to scale Infinite Jest.

            Matthew and JOB are the only members of the Kollektiv I’ve met in person so far, but yeah, with them, what you see on this blog is what you get in real life. Can’t wait to meet the rest of the Krewe. My modem’s on the fritz, so I haven’t been able to watch Brian Jobe’s video yet, but it’s no surprise that Jonathan Potter is a consummate librarian: Have you read House of Words? Even the man’s poems are quiet!

            • Jonathan Potter says

              We all have our crosses to bear.

            • Okay, I’ll see if I can find some bits that might give you an idea of the paper. A lot of it actually had to do with the novels, and how various selves in them attempted “to [g]et [r]id of [them]selves.” I tried to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary amnesia (Will Barrett’s amnesia being an example of the second), and to suggest a relationship between amnesia and escape. I also wanted to make the case that not all forms of escape are bad.

              I would love to hear any thoughts any of y’all might have on any of these subjects.

              And I haven’t yet read House of Words, but I would like to do so.

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

                Thanks, Rachel! This should be interesting in itself, and it sounds like it also might shed some light on Percy/Wallace connections. Thank you very much for your willingness to share some snippets.

                I’m a little disappointed our Mr Potter didn’t hand you an autographed copy of House of Words upon meeting you (or, at least, upon figuring out who you were), but it’s well worth reading anyway.

                • Jonathan Potter says

                  I neglected to bring any copies of HoW to the big easy, but a copy for Rachel will go out in today’s mail!

                  • Thank you, Jonathan!

                    Like Ryan Charles Trusell, I’ve been having some “good mail days” as of late. Surfing with Mel and the conference broadside came on the same day. And House of Words came yesterday. Very exciting.

                    I am posting a section of my paper below.

  3. [I’ve modified these paragraphs a bit from the version I’ve saved on my computer.]

    “[…] in The Moviegoer, Binx is guilty of a sort of voluntary amnesia very similar to that which Percy describes in “The Amnesic Self.” By dating his secretaries, Binx separates his life into episodes; sometimes, by doing so, he is able to escape what he calls the malaise, or at least to trade it for “the sad little happiness of drinks and kisses, a good little car and a warm deep thigh.” In Library Journal in 1961, Judith Serebnick asserts that “Binx uses the movies as a ‘narcotic refuge.’” If I have rightly interpreted the use of quotation marks in this piece, as reprinted in the collection Conversations with Walker Percy, it is Percy himself who used this term, “narcotic refuge.” What is Binx taking refuge from? Presumably, he takes refuge from, once again, the malaise, and from what he calls “the everydayness.” What is wrong with this? If there is something wrong with it, it is perhaps that his escapes, his refuges—a category into which I would put both his moviegoing and his dating of his secretaries—lack seriousness. Insofar as these refuges are less than serious, they reveal Binx to be in Kierkegaard’s aesthetic stage, a stage that, if I understand it rightly (and I am no expert on Kierkegaard) is characterized by a failure to take responsibility for one’s actions. Thus Percy himself, in an interview with Bradley R. Dewey in 1974, describes Binx’s search as “antic” and as “still in the esthetic mode” (“Walker Percy Talks about Kierkegaard: An Annotated Interview,” The Journal of Religion 54: July 1974, 273-98, in Conversations with Walker Percy, p. 114).

    On the other hand, is Percy himself right about the nature of Binx’s search? Why even ask such a question? I ask it because I wonder if the very ending of The Moviegoer—an ending which I read as suggesting, however ambiguously, Binx’s taking on of the Catholic faith of his half-brother, Lonnie—may, if we allow it to color the way we understand the novel as a whole, indicate that there has been a serious—or ethical—undercurrent to Binx’s search all along. Kierkegaard himself writes, in The Sickness Unto Death, that “purely philosophically, it could be a subtle question whether it is possible for one to be in despair and be fully aware of that of which one despairs” (The Sickness unto Death, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980, note on p. 61). Binx is not far, I would argue, from the kind of self-knowledge that I think is a condition (if not the condition) for what Kierkegaard calls “healing.” But I will keep this question open, for now.

  4. Does Binx’s self want to get rid of itself, as per the diagnosis in Lost in the Cosmos? I think it does, in a sense—why else go to the movies? why else take on the roles of Gregory Peck and Marlon Brando? Yet note that Binx also takes precautions against what he calls “slipping clean out of space and time” —against, in other words, becoming what he calls “an Anyone” —which suggests that his self does not in fact wish to get rid of itself altogether. What about Kate’s self? Does it want to get rid of itself? Perhaps. It may be remarked, in this connection, that in The Sickness unto Death, which Percy told Bradley R. Dewey he “worked hard on” (p. 107), Kierkegaard describes both a feminine and a masculine form of despair. It is the feminine form of despair that Kierkegaard calls “despair in weakness,” and it is, perhaps, this that Percy refers to when he writes of Kate’s “woman’s despair.” Is it Kate, then, who wants to get rid of her self, feminine despair being, according to Kierkegaard, that despair that is characterized by “not […] will[ing] to be oneself?” Kate says to Binx that she “was afraid because [she] felt that [she] must be such and such a person,” and that she realizes now that “[o]ne is free.” It is clear, however, that Kate’s escape, here, is still a form of despair. It might be said that both Kate and Binx try to escape themselves, but in different ways: Kate through swinging back and forth between extremes, through contemplating what Percy will call, in Lost in the Cosmos, an “exitus […] into deep space,” and through submitting herself to someone else’s authority; Binx through—well, moviegoing.

    [I need to check, but I think my Kierkegaard quotations are all from the Hong edition of SIckness.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Thank you very much for sharing these excerpts, Rachel!

      Asking whether Kate’s self is trying to escape itself (and, if so, how) is a great idea, and will probably color any re-reading I may do of The Moviegoer in the future.

      Any further thoughts on Kate’s psychology, on Will Barrett, on ‘good’ escapes, or any other excerpts you care to post would be most welcome here. No pressure, of course!

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