Walker Percy (1916-1960) was an American author. His works include The Moviegoer (1961), The Last Gentleman (1966) Love in the Ruins (1971), and The Thanatos Syndrome (1987). He won a National Book Award for The Moviegoer.
Life and works
Percy was born May 28, 1916, in Birmingham, Alabama. He was part of a prominent family; his father was a lawyer and he was able to attend Birmingham University School (now Altamont School). When Percy was thirteen, his father shot himself; two years later, his mother drove off a bridge; and so he was raised by his father's cousin in Greenville, Mississippi, where he developed a love for books (including his adoptive father's Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son). He enrolled in the University on North Carolina in 1934, studying chemistry, and in 1941 received a medical degree from Columbia University.
At North Carolina University, he met a boy named Shelby Foote who disagreed with them on the issue of segregation - Percy was in favor; Foote was not. Foote moderated him, but Foote's literary abilities discouraged his writing and he did not produce any notable fiction novels until The Moviegoer (1961). He had written some philosophy texts, which established him as a Roman Catholic existentialists and introduced the concept of Malaise, despair in a rootless, modern, liberal world, as was apparent in his later works: The Last Gentleman (1966), Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time near the End of the World (1971, a comedic science fiction novel), Lancelot (1977), an allegory of the tale King Arthur told by a wife-murderer in a mental facility; The Second Coming (1980); and The Thanatos Syndrome (1987). His The Thanatos Syndrome, the story of a man imprisoned for selling drugs to truck drivers who attempts to contaminate a water supply, is an excellent warning of the dangers of a world of liberal doctrines.
Percy contracted tuberculosis while at medical school in the 1940s, and died May 10, 1990.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall: New York, 1991.
- "Percy, Walker." Encyclopedia Britannica Online.