He was a novelist, a philosopher, a scholar, a professor, and a legend.
Walker Percy, born in 1916 in Alabama, didn’t begin his life as any of these things. In fact, in 1937, he graduated from the University of North Carolina with a B.A. in Chemistry and went on to graduate from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1941.
Twenty years later and his still-lasting legacy was born with the publication of his first novel, The Moviegoer, which won the National Book Award for Fiction.
He moved to Covington, Louisiana with his wife and went on to write a handful of books, fiction and nonfiction, ranging from topics of philosophy to semiotics to religion to science to life in the South.
However, “the dislocation of man in the modern age” was what Percy called the overarching theme of his works.
While balancing his fight with tuberculosis, and eventually cancer, with his career as a published author, Percy taught and mentored young writers here at Loyola.
During his time here, he was one of the key members in getting John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces published in 1980, more than a decade after Toole’s death. The novel went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
After the passing of both he (1990) and his wife, Mary (2012), a special collection was started in Monroe Library’s Archives dedicated to the life and works of Walker Percy.
Including everything from handwritten notes and speeches to collected articles he authored to correspondents with other noteworthy authors to the checks he and his wife wrote on a daily basis, the entirety of the compilation spans across five different collections donated to Archives by both loved ones and collectors.
Novelist Francine du Plessix Gray called Walker Percy, “our greatest Catholic novelist since Flannery O’Connor.” Many since agree.
If you’d live to find out for yourself and check out any of the Walker Percy collection, all of the materials are available for viewing in Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30.
Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.
This post was compiled by student worker Mary Graci.