Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Epiphany of Walker Percy

In the course of discussing Tennessee Williams--as well as his conversion to Catholicism--Walker Percy pauses and tells me he has come to a conclusion about the world, after seeing it through the eyes of the characters created by Tenn.


The way I see it, we are all perfectly mediocre day-laborers for God. We forget to punch in, we always forget some important element of inventory; our attitudes sour and fail; we come to act as if we own the store, and then, after all that, we wonder when the raise is coming. And, unlike our earthly supervisors, God bestows upon us, through Christ and the agent of art, which I believe to be God-given, such unfailing love and understanding that we feel we must turn over that new leaf, try to get to work on time, show some initiative, but we never do. In a matter of days--or moments--we are right back to our usual habits, because, as we already know, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. We are only human. We are conceived in sin. We are utterly shit.

I am amazed that in my worst phases, when I was most delinquent, I still knew what I was missing--which makes my dereliction even more fascinating, more pathological than ever.

We like to say that as writers we are own bosses, but I think writers realize more than others just who really is in charge. The blank page, the moistness under the arms and above the lip, the sheer terror of Nothing Happening. I know that it doesn't come from some nook of the brain when the words start to come. I know that I'm not wrestling forth a novel, a phrase, one perfectly wonderful sentence. I know where it comes from. I can sometimes feel Him slip into me like a thief with good tools. I think Tennessee was permanently in search of his various gods, seeking, hoping. What kills me is that I repeatedly forget the wonder of it--the aid, the completion, the seeking again, the finding again.


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