I’m thinking about lecturing on Walker Percy during the last two days of my Major American Writers class.
Here’s a short passage from Percy’s The Moviegoer, which won him a National Book Award in 1961:
What is the nature of the search? you ask.
Really it is very simple, at least for a fellow like me; so simple that it is easily overlooked.
The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. This morning, for example, I felt as if I had come to myself on a strange island. And what does such a castaway do? Why, he pokes around the neighborhood and he doesn’t miss a trick.
To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
The movies are onto the search, but they screw it up. The search always ends in despair.