In popular culture, and especially in music, the days of the week of particular significance are Mondays and Fridays. The former has downbeat, dread-like connotations, as in “Blue Monday” (Dave Bartholomew, performed by Fats Domino) and “I Don’t Like Mondays” (Bob Geldof, performed by The Boomtown Rats). In contrast, Friday has an air of promise and optimism, as suggested by the song “Friday on My Mind” (George Young and Harry Vanda, performed by The Easybeats). Walker Percy well understood the social significance of these bookends (Monday and Friday) to our routinized, alienated condition. But what about the ordinary day, a day that isn’t typically associated with either the corrosiveness of a Monday or the hopefulness of a Friday? For Percy Wednesday was totemic of a nondescript day, the greater part of our experience (Not to be taken literally. Dread or hope can be associated with any day). As he so starkly put it in The Last Gentleman:
Where he probably goes wrong, mused the engineer sleepily, is in the extremity of his alternatives: God and not-God, getting under women’s dresses and blowing your brains out. Whereas and in fact my problem is how to live from one ordinary minute to the next on a Wednesday afternoon. Has not this been the case with all “religious” people?
A recent study has reported that the incidence of suicide is significantly highest on Wednesdays (Augustine J. Kposowa and Stephanie D’Auria, 2010. Association of temporal factors and suicides in the United States, 2000–2004. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Volume 45, Issue 4, pp. 433-445.) Regardless of the empirical evidence, Percy was certainly onto something. He had as his philosophical quarry a deeper, more subtle existential question of meaning and significance of the ordinary, the banal, the undramatic and the ubiquitous. The problem of “Wednesday” exercised Percy from The Last Gentleman (1966) through to Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (1983) and was mentioned in several interviews.