Posts Tagged ‘walker percy’

Help Yourself with the Last Self-Help Book

#howtotuesday: Help Yourself with the Last Self-Help Book

Why can you size up Saturn, or a stranger, in 10 seconds—but not yourself, whom you have known all your life?

Why is the Self the only object in the Cosmos which gets bored?

Why is it that the Self—though it professes to be loving, caring, to prefer peace to war, concord to discord, life to death; to wish other selves well, not ill—in fact secretly relishes wars and rumors of war, news of murders, obituaries, to say nothing of local news about acquaintances dropping dead in the street, gossip about neighbors getting in fights or being detected in sexual scandals, embezzlements, and other disgraces?

These are but a tiny sample of the questions posed by Walker Percy in Lost in the Cosmos: The Last-Self Help Book.

Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book is a tongue-in-cheek, mock self-help text containing essays, multiple-choice quizzes, and “thought experiments” authored by past Loyola University New Orleans mentor and professor Walker Percy. The book, Percy’s most popular work of non-fiction, is formatted to satirize standard self-help books while encouraging readers to seriously contemplate their Self and existential situation. Percy embarks upon an array of topics—religion, science, movie trivia, fear, exhilaration, sex, boredom—and discusses both contemporary events and popular figures (e.g. Jonny Carson, Mother Teresa, and Carl Sagan).

Loyola University Special Collections & Archives holds nine copies of Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book—five copies feature the signature (and in a single case, a rather lengthy inscription) of Walker Percy with one additional copy being inscribed by the book’s editor, Robert Giroux.

Are you interested in taking “A Preliminary Short Quiz so that you may determine whether you need to take the Twenty-Question Self-Help Quiz” or courageously embarking upon Percy’s “Twenty-Question Multiple-Choice Self-Help Quiz to test your knowledge of the peculiar status of the self, your self, and other selves, in the Cosmos, and your knowledge of what to do with your self in these, the last years of the twentieth century?” If so, visit Special Collections & Archives Monday-Thursday, 9:00-4:30 or Friday 9:00-12:00!

For further study of Walker Percy, Loyola University Special Collections & Archives holds a significant amount of material relating to the author including the Walker Percy Papers, Percy-Walsh Correspondence, Percy-Romagosa Collection, Percy-Suhor Letters, and Patrick Samway, S.J Papers.

“The dislocation of man in the modern age”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.