The auto age is defunct. Buicks, Chryslers, and Pontiacs disfigure the landscape. Vines sprout in Manhattan. Wolves are seen in downtown Cleveland. And psychiatrist, mental hospital outpatient, and inventor Dr. Tom More has created a miraculous instrument: the ontological lapsometer, a kind of stethoscope of the human spirit. With it, he plans to cure mankind’s spiritual flu. But first, he must survive Moira, Lola, and Ellen - and discover why so many living people are actually dead.
Attempting to save the world from completely destroying itself, Tom ultimately begins to understand the quality and caprices of life and the uncontrollable vagaries of time and chance.
©1971 Walker Percy (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"A comedy of love against a field of anarchy…. Percy is easily one of the finest writers we have." (New York Times Book Review)
"A great adventure.… So outrageous and so real, one is left speechless." (Chicago Sun Times)
"Immensely readable, vividly entertaining." (Los Angeles Times)
My first taste of Walker Percy. Why did I not read this years ago? Evelyn Waugh meets sci-fi in a Southern setting.
Grover Gardner has a pleasing deadpan delivery that suits the prose and plot. Some of the accents were not convincing but that did not detract much from the whole.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
Every time I read Walker Percy I fall in love. I seduce myself into thinking I'm actually just a bad Catholic and promise myself that next time I get a chance I will lose myself in the desert, the woods, or anywhere I can see the cold stars and the burning sand and live forever somewhere in between.
Reading another Percy novel is like discovering an unopened can of cashews in the cupboard. The amount of joy and delight I get from reading and laughing at Percy's absurd view of religion, life, love, the modern era, etc., is really only approached by a handful of lightly salted cashews and sex. 'Love in the Ruins' is messy and weird and probably could have been edited a bit, but it ALL still works perfectly for me. I laughed through every paragraph and each mark of punctuation. Percy's bad, crazy genius, almost polygamist, Catholic protagonists speak to me in ways that most philosophers (old and new), preachers (godly and godless), and politicians (left or right) fail to. He seems to occupy the ground of the fellow traveler who is just as lost and mistaken as you, but possesses a bit more whit and some extra whiskey.
So where does this novel stack up? It was like a friendly dystopian novel. It was like McCarthy decided to write a comic novel. The vines of his morality slide and creep through every page and his humor dances like a purple martin at dusk. The book might only be objectively a four star novel, but this is my review dammit and I own and carry my biases and I love Walker Percy because he makes me want to both believe AND misbehave.
I love this book. I listen to it once a year. It puts my soul right again. I highly recommend it
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Walker Percy is one of those 20th century Catholic novelists that intrigue me. Percy, Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Endo and several others were not writing 'Christian fiction'. They were writing literary fiction that was influenced by their faith, usually quite overtly. They became prophets in a way that I am not sure is quite possible today.
Alan Jacobs' long essay at Haper's on the loss of the Christian Public Intellectual is somewhat similar to my thoughts here. It is not that there are not prominent literary figures that are Christians (Marilynne Robinson being the first on everyone's lips.) But I am not sure that there is a similar prophetic voice, and I am not sure that the culture of the 1950-70s that produced these famous Catholic voices wasn't a particular culture that was conversant enough about Christian themes, while not necessarily being Christian. But it is also always problematic comparing historical authors to current because the remembered historical authors are always greater than the whole of current authors that have not been winnowed by time.
Love in the Ruins is about Dr Tom More. Written in 1971, it envisions a near future USA that has devolved into a segmented culture with no real government. Small city states of conservatives (Knotheads) or liberals operate without any opposition. Several groups live outside of society, including the hippy communes and the Black radicals that are opposing a more extreme Jim Crow (near slavery) style oppression.
Tom More is a widower. His wife left him to find herself after their daughter died. And then his wife died with her universalist guru. Tom is now a brilliant alcoholic womanizing doctor. He is a sometimes psych resident of the large teaching hospital. But mostly he is living by himself, minded by his nurse, pursuing local girls and trying to figure out his Ontological Lapseometer. The Lapseometer reads the state of the soul and toward the middle of the book he figures out how to turn the reading device into one that can adjust the mental imbalances of the individual, Angelism/Beastialism ratio among other types of imbalances.
There is a lot of humor here, but also sharp cultural criticism. Tom More, because he is a bit mad himself, is able to see culture from the outside. Love in the Ruins is a bit dated, but it was published 45 years ago. It is quite different from the current raft of dystopian books. New cars are easily available for instance. But old, abandoned cars are everywhere. No one will fix anything, so once it breaks down, it is abandoned. Country clubs are still gated realms of white privilege, but armed gangs might burn your house down and kill you and your family.
Percy can write. And he does a great job exploring ideas about the meaning of life, theology, psychology and the problems of modern life. I really like Tom More. But there were parts of the book that really dragged. There was a lot of language. And while satirical, racism is prevalent. There is more desire for sex than actual sex, but this is not a 'clean' novel (a Kinsey style sex clinic is one of the areas that wants to use his Lapsometer.)
I mostly listened to the audiobook (Grover Gardner from 1994), but I do want to read this again in print eventually.
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