Interview with Mr. Howard Nichols and Mrs. Mary Percy
Standing (from left to right): Heather, Anne, Morgan, Brittany, Stephanie, Mr. Nichols,
Sitting (from left to right): Rachel, Mari, Mrs. Prather, Jessica, Mrs. Mary Percy,
"He always told me he knew he was born to be a writer." (Mrs. Mary Percy, Interview 2002) While Walker Percy, born on May 28, 1916 in Birmingham, Alabama, enjoyed writing as a pastime when he was younger, he did not start out to pursue a career in writing, but he followed the Percy tradition of becoming a lawyer or doctor, out of which he chose doctoring. Shortly after getting his MD at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1941, he developed tuberculosis during his internship at Bellevue Hospital. While he was sick in bed, he started reading some of the famous philosopher's and existentialist's works. Among the many existentialist works that he read, he got many of his ideas from Kirekegaard. Also while he was in the hospital his uncle, William Alexander Percy, died leaving him with a sizeable sum of money and fairly well off; therefore not having to take up the ocupation of doctoring. This same uncle, cared and nurtured for Percy and his two brothers all through their childhood, for their father had committed suicide when Percy was 13 in 1929 and their mother died from a car accident two years later.
Percy was finally well again at the end of the Second World War. He married Mary Bernice Townsend in 1946, and they moved into his late uncle's house. They both converted to Roman Catholicism and in 1947, they moved to New Orleans. During that time he wrote two books, The Charter House and The Gramercy Winner, which were not published. Three years later, Percy and his wife moved to Covington, raised two daughters, and opened a bookstore. He lived there until he died in 1990.
Percy wrote six novels and several other writings during the time that he lived in Covington. He traveled to Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi where he got some of the ideas for his books. His books were always about people trying to find a meaning in their lives. Another term for this is existentialism. Percy explains existentialism (back to top) as 'a concrete view of man, man in a situation, man in a predicament, man's anxiety . . . I believed this view of man could be handled very well in a novel, and I was interested in phenomenology, which is very strongly existentialist: the idea of describing accurately how a man feels in a given situation." (Understanding Walker Percy, by: Linda Whitney Hobson) Percy got most of his ideas from the famous philosopher, Kierkegaard and also from another existentialist philosopher, Gabriel Marcel. "I guess," Percy says, "my main debt to Kierkegaard is the use of his tremendous philosophical and theological insight as a basis to build on." (Bradley R. Dewey "Walker Percy talks about Kierkegaard: An Annotated Interview" Journal of Religion)
Even the best authors sometimes have difficulties thinking of ideas and putting them on paper. Even they make a great deal of revisions. "The best writers still have tp put hard work into their books," commented Mrs. Walker Percy "When you read a book, you just see the end result, not all of the work that has gone into it." (Interview 2002) Walker Percy made many of revisions. He even wrote The Moviegoer five times to suit the editor.
Walker Percy's books made people think. Mrs. Percy later remarked that you could read books in two different ways. You can read them as just stories, or you can read in between the lines to form a deeper meaning. His books will remain as an important part of American literature forever.
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