Walker Percy Wednesday 109


Don’t forget Frank Macon, old hunting pal, once a complex old-style sardonic black man, as compact of friendship and ironies as Prince Hamlet, as faithful and abusive as a Russian peasant. Now as distant and ironed out as a bank teller: Have a nice day.


We inmates, or rather detainees—assorted con men, politicians, ex-Presidential aides, white-collar crooks, impaired physicians pushing pills, mercy killers, EPA inspectors on the take from lumber and oil barons—criminals all, but on the whole engaging and nonmurderous. And next door, Hope Haven, a community of impaired priests, burned-out ministers and rabbis, none criminal, none detained, but all depressed, nutty, or alcoholic, generally all three, who had not run afoul of the law as we had but had just conked out, and so had great sympathy for us and made themselves available.


This pair and I were sitting in the prison library one afternoon, the Birmingham dentist reading Stars and Bars, a new New Right magazine published at Fort Sumter, South Carolina; the New York lawyer reading The New York Review of Books. I was reading a new history of the Battle of the Somme, a battle which, with the concurrent Battle of Verdun, seemed to me to be events marking the beginning of a new age, an age not yet named. In the course of these two battles, two million young men were killed toward no discernible end. As Dr. Freud might have said, the age of thanatos had begun.
These two fellows had argued violently at table about racism in the South and the crypto-communism of Northern liberals.