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Vol. 9, No. 2: Summer 2003

A Conspiracy of Dunces? Walker Percy’s Humor and the Chance of a Last Laugh

by Bryan Albin Giemza

“Percy took a punch intended for Foote — from an outraged woman, no less — and had the good grace to earmark the scene for fictional purposes.”

When Walker Percy was buried on May 12, 1990, at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, sounds of life intruded on the occasion of his death. Writer Doris Betts reflected on the scene:

As the procession moved to the burial spot, its line was crossed by some group of Louisiana revelers, a parade really, almost a mini-carnival. How Walker Percy would have enjoyed that celebration! I can’t help hoping the moment was one of those “signs” Will Barrett was always looking for, that maybe Walker Percy made his wager like Pascal and won it, and had the chance to send back from eternity this fleeting, ambiguous merry clue.

Percy had a genial soft spot for Louisiana’s freewheeling unpredictability. As a writer who loved a good joke—particularly a cosmic one—he would no doubt have relished the scene. It is hard not to hear some of Percy’s voice carrying through in this excerpt from his novel Lancelot: “In New Orleans I have noticed that people are happiest when they are going to funerals, making money, taking care of the dead, or putting on masks at Mardi Gras so nobody knows who they are.”

This article appears as an abstract above, the complete article can be accessed in Project Muse
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