Tag: Walker Percy

ACF PoMoCon #22: Brian Smith

 

Friends, here’s our sixth conversation in memory of the late professor of political philosophy and public intellectual Peter Lawler. This week, Brian Smith, managing editor of Law & Liberty–my editor!–joins me for a conversation about his friendship with Peter, their work on Walker Percy, and Peter’s Tocqueville book, The Restless Mind–or rather how his insights shed light on our own crisis, since we have forgotten or neglected to be relational.

Russell Kirk’s Favorite Loincloth, or The Conservative Novelist Adapts

 

“Different times demand different actions. Had I been born in Ancient Egypt I may well have advocated for change, even radical change. But modern times require shoring up the Old Moral Order.”– Russell Kirk

If you can, for just a moment pull your mind from Pharaoh Kirkses II and his sartorial choices, and contemplate his point. When asked to consider the conservative novelist, we normally choose from a set cast of characters; Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien, Allen Drury, G.K. Chesterton, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They represent the bulwark, the voice that stands loudly astride history yelling stop and portrays old values and mores with humanity and passion. Rarely do we stop to consider the novelist that finds those values buried beneath the deep layers of their own modernity, and by showing only faint glimmers argues for their modified return. Two novelists separated by birth and an ocean, Ma Jian and Walker Percy, provide powerful examples of the adapted conservative novelist and his worth.

“The carbine lies across my lap. Just below the cloverleaf, in the ruined motel, the three girls are waiting for me.” Dr. Thomas More, the narrator of Love in the Ruins, is not a well man. He drinks too much, wanders in the dead of night through malarial swamps, and lusts after every woman he can find, just for a moment without his dead daughter and gnostic spouse. In Dr. More there is none of the saintly debauchery of Sebastian Flyte or even the simple sinfulness of Wormwood’s ward, he is a funny and fallen man fully conscious of the beauty he is slowly losing a drunken grip on. Unlike the more famous Thanatos Syndrome, which has been accused even by Percy fans of being preachy, Love in the Ruins thrives on its subtlety, on the guilty pleasure that is watching the moral deterioration of Dr. More which expresses itself in jabs at Commonweal, George Wallace, and the prosperity gospel. Dr. More wishes, it grows clear as the novel goes on, to be faced with the simpler choice of Thomas More, to sacrifice himself to martyrdom and be done with a society that refused to allow old values to adapt or even exist.

Member Post

 

It’s been brought to my attention that the first installment of this journal is pretty dark. I’m not a depressed guy. I’m all about figuring out how we can have community by sharing in beautiful things & insightful inquiries. I’m always trying to bring poetry & similar things to Ricochet. Of course, trying ain’t doing; […]

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