Sunday, August 20, 2006

Book Club of One, Part 2 - Emerging from the Cave

I figured it would be good to get my thoughts down about The Second Coming, by Walker Percy now, just minutes after I turned the final page.

The book was a completely new experience for me. I felt, at times, as if I had detached from everything, the words on the page included, and the ideas and language were just flowing over me. But let's put the weird stuff aside for the moment.

The book is, essentially a love story. It involves Will Barrett, from Percy's The Last Gentleman and an escaped mental patient, Allison. Barrett, living a "death in life" after his father's suicide and to take Will with him, goes on a quest to figure out if there is a god. His sign comes in the form of Allison, an almost fairy-like girl with a strong connection to the earth. She is almost other-worldly in her healing powers, yet lacks the ability to communicate well with other people. Will, however, understands her unique way of speaking. Thus, Barrett finds life in life through Allison. Further, he finds an overwhelming sense of something larger through his relationship and happiness with Allison.

That is far from all. The book is much more in depth. The happiness Barrett finds comes at the end of a long, arduous journey through the depths of his inauthentic existence. Dialogue is the exception in this introspective novel, but Percy manages to explore even the most minor characters in depth through his language.

Some revealing quotes:

"Men love death because real death is better than the living death. That's why men like wars, of course. Bad as wars are and maybe because they are so bad, thinking of peace during war is better than peace. War is what makes peace desirable. But peace without war is intolerable. Why do men settle so easily for lives which are living deaths? Men either kill each other in war, or in peace walk as docilely into living death as sheep into a slaughter house."

"The room seemed to have an emotion of its own. Was it the feeling of someone present or someone absent? He frowned again and turned quickly toward the bathroom. No, rooms do not have emotions. Rooms are only rooms. How he hated the fake sadness of things. As he turned, he fell."

"Oh my God, how can a simple thing like a hot bath be this good, and since it is, is happiness no more than having something you've done without for a long time and aaah does it matter?"

"He was backing away. He had to find her. His need of her was as simple and urgent as drawing the next breath."

I would love to quote some of Allison and Will's conversations, but they seem silly out of context. Now, I just want to revel in my joy of good book-dom. Not sure yet what's next. Maybe it's time for Crime and Punishment. We shall see.

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