Jim Brown: Walker Percy’s Impact on Louisiana

June 4th, 2015
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Many readers who love Louisiana literature will gather this weekend in St. Francisville to celebrate the live and works of novelist Walker Percy. He was, to me, a literary icon who spent most of his life in Louisiana. Many consider him to be America’s most significant Catholic writer. And he was passionate about Louisiana. So passionate that he took the time to give me some good advise about what he considered to be the insidious politics in the Bayou State.

I first heard about Dr. Percy (he was a psychiatrist by training) back in 1961 when I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina. I was writing a weekly column for the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. Percy was a Carolina graduate, and had also written regular columns for the Tar Heel back in the late 1930s. His first novel, The Moviegoer, had just won the National Book award, and there was a lot of buzz about him in Chapel Hill.

One of the amusing stories that circulated around the English Department at Carolina was about Percy taking his freshman English placement test. He had just read Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” and wrote his entire essay in one long paragraph without punctuation. He was promptly placed into a class for slow learners and was told that he needed a lot of help to pass English composition.

The Moviegoer was set in New Orleans, a place I had never visited. Percy’s descriptions of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, and the streets of the Crescent City were enchanting to me, and one of the reasons I decided to attend Tulane Law School. One of my courses in constitutional law was taught by Professor Billups Percy, Dr. Percy’s brother. His uncle, Will Percy, had written an important history titled “Lanterns on the Levee,” a memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood, where he describes life in the Mississippi Delta. The introduction was written by Walker Percy. Continue Reading……..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *