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Walker Percy Wednesday 173

The question must arise then: If triadic activity is overt behavior and as such is the proper object of investigation of a factual behavioral science and is not formulable by the postulates and laws of conventional behaviorism, what manner of “postulates” and “laws,” if any, would be suitable for such a science? Or is the…

Walker Percy Wednesday 170

The longer we think about it, the more mysterious the simplest act of naming becomes. It is, we begin to realize, quite without precedent in all of natural history as we know it. But so, you might reply, is the emergence of the eye without precedent, so is sexual reproduction without precedent. These are nevertheless…

Walker Percy Wednesday 169

THE MYSTERY OF LANGUAGE LANGUAGE IS an extremely mysterious phenomenon. By mysterious I do not mean that the events which take place in the brain during an exchange of language are complex and little understood-although this is true too. I mean, rather, that language, which at first sight appears to be the most familiar sort…

Walker Percy Wednesday 168

The American Christian novelist faces a peculiar dilemma today. (I speak, of course, of a dilemma of the times and not of his own personal malaise, neuroses, failures, to which he is at least as subject as his good heathen colleagues, sometimes I think more so.) His dilemma is that though he professes a belief…

Walker Percy Wednesday 167

In view of the triumphant and generally admirable democratic-technological transformation of society, what is the ground of the novelist’s radical disquiet? Can the charge be brought against him, as Harvey Cox has accused the existentialists, of being an anachronism, one of the remnant of nineteenth-century “cultivated personalities” who, finding no sympathetic hearing from either technician…

Walker Percy Wednesday 166

Since true prophets, i.e., men called by God to communicate something urgent to other men, are currently in short supply, the novelist may perform a quasi-prophetic function. Like the prophet, his news is generally bad. Unlike the prophet, whose mouth has been purified by a burning coal, the novelist’s art is often bad, too. It…

Walker Percy Wednesday 165

NOTES FOR A NOVEL ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD A SERIOUS NOVEL about the destruction of the United States and the end of the world should perform the function of prophecy in reverse. The novelist writes about the coming end in order to warn about present ills and so avert the end. Not being…

Walker Percy Wednesday 164

A man riding a train may incarnate alienation (the commuter) or rotation (i. e., the English variety: “I was taking a long-delayed holiday. In the same compartment and directly opposite me, I noticed a young woman who seemed to be in some sort of distress. To my astonishment she beckoned to me. I had planned…

Walker Percy Wednesday 163

The road is better than the inn, said Cervantes-and by this he meant that rotation is better than the alienation of everydayness. The best part of Huckleberry Finn begins when Huck escapes from his old man’s shack and ends when he leaves the river for good at Phelps farm. Mark Twain hit upon an admirable…

Walker Percy Wednesday 162

THE MAN ON THE TRAIN THERE is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a literature of alienation. In the re-presenting of alienation the category is reversed and becomes something entirely different. There is a great deal of difference between an alienated commuter riding a train and this same commuter reading a book about an alienated…