Walker Percy Wednesday – 11

So thoroughly in fact did he identify with his group companions of the moment, so adept did he become at role-taking, as the social scientists call it, that he all but disappeared into the group. As everyone knows, New York is noted for the number and variety of the groups with which one might associate, so that even a normal person sometimes feels dislocated. As a consequence this young man, dislocated to began with, hardly knew who he was from one day to the next. There were times when he took roles so successfully that he left off being who he was and became someone else. . . . So well did he adapt that it always came as a surprise when two groups who got along with him did not get along with each other. For example, he had fallen in with an interracial group which met at a writer’s apartment in the Village on Friday nights. It did not strike him as in the least anomalous that on Saturday night he met with the Siberian Gentlemen, a nostalgic supper club of expatriate Southerners, mostly lawyers and brokers, who gathered at the Carlyle and spoke of going back to Charleston or Mobile. At two or three o’clock in the morning somebody would sigh and say, “You can’t go home again,” and everybody would go back to his Park Avenue apartment. One night he made the mistake of bringing a friend from the first group to the second, a Southerner like himself but a crude sort who had not yet mastered group skills and did not know the difference between cursing the governor of Virginia, who was a gentleman, and cursing the governor of Alabama, who was not.

Walker Percy, Philosopher