Walker Percy: "Bad books always lie. Have you read any good Marxist novels lately? Any good behaviorist novels lately? Any good Freudian novels lately? Any good Buddhist novels lately?"
"Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition." Walker Percy's bold assertion offended a student I had just met, and she wanted to talk.
And so on a cold winter evening in the Poconos, I sat down with this Princeton University Ph.D. candidate who had joined several dozen graduate students for a weekend of reflection.
As I pondered how to approach the weekend, Walker Percy's insight about literature and life--that "bad books always lie"--came to mind...The thesis is true beyond the world of novels, echoing into every area of human existence. All across the curriculum, the view of the human condition sets the terms of the debate. What we believe about who we are--our origin, nature, and destiny--affects everything else.
Percy saw the issues as a line in the sand: Either one worked out of the Jewish and Christian tradition, with its narrative-shaped understanding of the human condition, or one did not have what was required for a good story. In his own words, "Judeo-Christianity is about pilgrims who have something wrong with them and embark on a search to find a way out. This is also what novels are about."
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Books by Walker Percy include: