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Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  285 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, within the shelter of old traditions, aristocratic in the best sense, William Alexander Percy in his lifetime (1885–1942) was brought face to face with the convulsions of a changing world. Lanterns on the Levee is his memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood. In describing life in the Mississippi Delta, Percy bridges ...more
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published July 1st 1984 by Louisiana State University Press (first published 1941)
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Feb 02, 2011 DoctorM rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
A fine elegiac piece by a one of the last of his class... A memoir of growing up in the Mississippi as a member of a dying planter class--- by a scion of a liberal Southern family whose biography (poet, planter, decorated combat soldier, sometime lawyer, traveler, admirer of beautiful boys) is worth a novel and and a film...
Jack Carver
Jan 06, 2016 Jack Carver rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will Percy's generation could perhaps rival any for a claim to living through the greatest number of momentous events and tectonic societal changes. The fact that Percy directly participated in many of this era's most critical happenings and was born in a region more transformed than maybe any other would provide a writer far less talented than he with material to write a fascinating memoir. In Lanterns on the Levee, however, not only do we read testimony of a life lived fully in this remarkable ...more
Jan 17, 2008 Benjamin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aspiring Southern poets
Shelves: nonfiction
I was first introduced to this book when I was an undergraduate at the University of the South, Percy’s alma mater. Percy writes a long poetic chapter about Sewanee that makes its way into every publication that the University releases. When I was visiting the South’s most famous book store, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and saw this book, I knew that I had to buy it. I was blown away by the prose. Percy is a poet, and his sentimental turns of phrase are simply beautiful. Perhaps the book ...more
Mar 08, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and elegiac memoir from a confessed "planter's son." Percy's evocative prose creates a vivid picture of a certain time and place, the Mississippi Delta of the late 19th and early 20th century, and the characters who inhabited it. Although his racial attitudes were considered moderate and even liberal for the time, from the vantage point of the 21st century, they are stereotypical and condescending. Percy was a keen observer of the human condition, however, and took a sympathetic view ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years, my family boasted that we are related to William Alexander Percy, "famous writer and poet of the South," but I didn't know anyone who had read any of his work. Now that I have read this book, I find myself wanting to proudly acknowledge our lineage. This is the kind of material that inspires me to write - now if I only had a smidge of Percy's gift of prose! Having grown up in the Louisiana Delta, I feel a connection with Percy's experiences, though he published this 19 years before my ...more
Hilarie Ehlert
A book to be read slowly, an autobiography of a southern aristocrat and his philosophies on life, World War I, southern life, slavery, and the future, note originally published in 1941, so the future as seen at that time. Recommended to me as a favorite from others, a very good read, thought provoking with good, subtle humor.
Sep 17, 2009 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This heartfelt, beautifully written, and sometimes touching memoir by a self-described Mississippi aristocrat makes exasperating reading today because of its condescending racial attitudes. Percy's family's courageous fight against the KKK and his disingenuous presentation of his role in historical events like the flood of 1927 should invite further reading to illuminate the book and its author in the context of their times. The excellent forward by Percy's renowned nephew, Walker, goes a long w ...more
Jun 23, 2008 Annette rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annette by: It was given to me by The Reeses
Lanterns on the Levee is the autobiography of William Alexander Percy. He gives a very interesting look at life in Mississippi in post civil war times through the early 1900's. The book was published in 1941. He has some different ideas on civil rights. I enjoyed the book and the insights he has. At times I didn't understand everything he was saying.
Apr 12, 2015 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, memoir, 2014, bio
A Southern memoir full of insights from the poetic mind of a man writing from his Mississippi life in the early 20thC.
A must read simple for the southern prose. The turn of phrases hardly found north of Atlanta are 5 stars.
Some telling of strife between Whites and Blacks is authentic and sad- the times they are achangin.

Jim Jawitz
The parts about the 1927 flood were what I was after. I wasn’t looking for genteel and elegant writing, but its presence was enough to hold my interest reading about the South and his early-life. The end of the book, after the flood, sinks into white supremacy and is best skipped.
Sep 05, 2011 Jeffrey rated it liked it
Though rationalized as consistent with the era in which he grew up, this memoir is notable for the paternalism toward African-Americans and outright racism presented as sociological insights. Sadly, the views expressed by Percy are still pervasive in the South.
Aug 17, 2009 Shelby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is a great memoir of living along the Mississipp in the 20s-30s. even contains a recipe for mint juleps!
Dec 29, 2012 christie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I could read and re-read this one. In fact, I would love to own the 1941 edition.
Blythe King
Jul 28, 2009 Blythe King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contains the best recipe for mint juleps- nutmeg is the secret ingredient.
Claire Jefferies
Probably 3.5. Will write a longer review soon.
Apr 05, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it
The final two chapters deserve a rating of "5"!
Jason Kemp
Sep 18, 2012 Jason Kemp rated it it was amazing
reading this is part of being a Mississippian
Mark Cahill
Mar 25, 2013 Mark Cahill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true giant of Southern fiction.
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William Alexander Percy was the author of four books of poetry, and he practiced law in Greenville, Mississippi, until his death, one year after the publication of his autobiography. Awarded the Croix de Guerre with gold star for his service in World War I, he also was one of the leaders in the succesful 1922 fight against the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville and headed the local Red Cross unit during t ...more
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“To the mind that could dream and shape our beaconed universe, what is injustice to us may be unfathomable tenderness, and our horror only loveliness misunderstood.” 0 likes
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