1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Walker Percy's genius

I recently finished (again) Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome. It strikes me on this reading how masterfully he is able to create and sustain a mood that feels at once futuristic (e.g., the Qualitarian Centers) and historical (e.g., his description of pre-war Nazi Germany).

This book proposes (or hints) that the culture of death is an engine driven by nice, respectable people with the best of intentions and the highest of motives. Still, they lack just one thing: a sense of the dignity of the human person. The mystery of the person has been evacuated and the results are predictable:

Do you know where tenderness leads? Tenderness leads to the gas chamber (360).

So says Father Rinaldo Smith and the fact that he's crazy doesn't diminish the truth of what he sees and what he has experienced. We ignore him at our peril.

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