David Madden and Walker Percy

From Black Mountain News

In 1968, Madden began 24 years of teaching at Louisiana State University. Living near him in Covington for a while was the writer Walker Percy, author of “Love in the Ruins” and other novels.

“He got on the faculty for just a quarter. I think his daughter was going to LSU,” Madden said. “He was a very quiet fellow. He would hold these deep philosophical discussions at his house. I don’t think he realized how deep into philosophy I was. I kind of wanted to be there, but I didn’t want to ask him.

“Anyway, he was very friendly to me. He wrote a comment on my novel ‘Bijou,’ which is about being a movie usher in Knoxville, at age 12. Percy told him he thought it was better than “Huckleberry Finn.” “So naturally, I’m well-disposed to him,” Madden said.

“Anyway, I’d see him in the hallway (at LSU), going to class or the bathroom or wherever. He would walk close to the wall, with his head down, in a kind of saunter. He was a very handsome fellow. One time he said, ‘David, how do you write a novel?’ I’m so naive that you can ‘get’ me anytime you want me. But he wasn’t trying to ‘get’ me. So I took him at his word and started telling him how to write a novel.

“Afterward, I realized what he meant was, he was writing a new novel, it was like he didn’t know how to write a novel – which is exactly what every writer feels. When you start a new novel, you think, how do you write a novel?”