Pilgrim in the Ruins

Jay Tolson, Author
Jay Tolson, Author Simon & Schuster $27.5 (544p) ISBN 978-0-671-65707-9
Paperback - 978-0-8078-4447-2
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-1-4165-5209-3
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This study of the life and work of Southern author Walker Percy (1916-1990), though competently written and researched, is flawed by Wilson's overt sympathy with Percy's philosophical outlook. The author was burdened by the angst of his father's and grandfather's suicides, and his essays--as well as his skilled and interesting novels, the National Book Award-winning The Moviegoer (1961), Love in the Ruins (1971) and The Thanatos Syndrome (1987)--reflect his quest for moral meaning in life, as Tolson shows. He found this in a conversion to Roman Catholicism, the ideas of the early existentialists and a rejection of modern secularism. Tolson is on firm ground when he details Percy's strong commitment to his wife and children, his friendship with writer Shelby Foote and his struggle to reach a moral position on civil rights, but his evaluation of Percy's work lacks critical distance. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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