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Lancelot

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,877 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Lancelot Lamar is a disenchanted lawyer who finds himself confined in a mental asylum with memories that don't seem worth remembering. It all began the day he accidentally discovered he was not the father of his youngest daughter, a discovery which sent Lancelot on modern quest to reverse the degeneration of America. Percy's novel reveals a shining knight for the modern ag ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published September 4th 1999 by Picador (first published 1977)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Amanda L
Understated yet altogether profound. Lancelot's story is retold entirely within his disturbed mind from a single room in an institution with but one window through which he can glimpse a fragment of his past life. The writing is absolutely beautiful and not the least pretentious. The retelling of his past will make you feel uneasy but oddly will make you laugh along the way. Confronts racial issues marked by the era with uncanny deliberateness and marital/ familial strife as the main character d ...more
Stephen Gallup
The structure of this novel reminds me of the movie Amadeus. There's no one here analogous to Mozart, but nevertheless a crime has been committed, and (like Salieri in the film) the man who felt driven to do it is now sorting out the meaning of it all while addressing a silent priest-like figure.

As such, this becomes a meditation on good and evil, on what matters and what does not, and it covers material that Percy handles in his other novels: Essentially, a character awakens to find himself in
...more
Brett
I loved this book. Percy continues diagnosing the "modern malaise" here through the eyes of a man that snapped out of his malaise through a single event. The man, now institutionalized, recounts the events of that lead to where he is, as he also rants and raves about the status of his life before and what the future holds.

There are points where Percy's own views come through the speaker in the story, but there are also points where the speaker just raves lunacy (the break between Percy's own vi
...more
Mikem
De-centering and dyspeptic, this Percy bit gets at the heart of the nihilism that has seduced some quarters of contemporary thought. The chivalric instincts of a would-be Knight of Faith is tossed into the mix of seventies soft-porn manners....mannners cultivated and then subverted by all that Southern stuff.
Matt Simmons
Less of a novel, and more of a jeremiad, and a jeremiad more true now, 35 years after Percy penned it, than it was originally. While its main thrust is the problematics of a culture whose sine qua non is pleasure, it is also a fascinating investigation of how we create identities for others (and how we, in turn, willingly and cheerfully embrace those identities created for us as a part of our obsession with the various forms of pleasure), with how history functions in our lives, with how we misu ...more
carl  theaker

The spiritual slumber, that seems to be the condition of the
late 20th century, is caused by the transition from spirituality to technology.

We get our sustenance from technology as opposed to 'the land'
where we would feel a closer spiritual connection.
Previously that was the only choice, the land, God , there were not many
alternatives or time to think of alternatives, as work & survival was a full time job.
Now we have a relatively new notion of free time and science
has led us to believe that
...more
Lori
Read this one for Sawyers Book Club on myspace, and becuase it is on the Lost Lit List....

I like the format... narrator speaks to reader as tho they are part of the story (one sided conversation).

I did not like all the lost trains of thought. The narrator would lead you towards an answer, or explanation and then veer off for pages and pages, almost seeming to have lost his orginal point.

I did not like the ending at all. Perhaps my copy is missing the last few pages?? (sadly, i know this is not
...more
Stephane
Catcher in the Rye for adults
Lance Kinzer
First a note of caution - this book is very explicit in its language and subject matter and may understandably be too much for some in that regard. Coming on the heels of Love in The Ruins this book approaches similar issues from a completely different angle. The plot unfolds quietly and ominously, all the while exploring how the protagonists inability to find meaning in the ordinary occurrences of life leads to a quest to find meaning in negation. Lancelot is disgusted by the tawdriness of tepi ...more
Silver
A quirky and very unique and original book which grabs the readers attention right away. It is written in a great style that is easy to read, and full of intrigue, while being told in a tone of ironical humor. It offers a reflective look, from an interesting persepctive on what has become of our modern society, with a nostalgia for the values of the old where things made more sense.

A modern day rendition of the legend of Lancelot and the search for the Holy Grail, set somewhere between the 60s-
...more
John
A man realizes he's been sleeping his way through life when he learns of his wife's infidelity. He wakes up and is disgusted with the ways that we all live. Life has no meaning. He ends up in a prison/insane asylum.
This is his rant as he searches for meaning.

I loved this book. Percy writes so well.

June 2015-re read. Lancelot tells his priest friend that life is meaningless. The closest thing to meaning for him is sexual desire, which he sees as merely violent. The priest is silent throughout u
...more
Jacob Stubbs
So, once again, Walker Percy delivers on an extremely dark, rather funny portrayal of the banality of modern culture. The style of this book was different from other books, as it is a series of reflections told from the protagonist to the reader from his prison cell. While some people (I think the NYT review complained of this) think that the reflections ramble off of the narrative, I think they serve the greater purpose of the book.

Overall, a dark, depressing, humourous (but maybe shouldn't be)
...more
Natalie Moore Goodison
I just loved it. I couldn't put it down. It's a Southern as you can come, with gritty one-liners that don't happen once-a-chapter, but once-a-page, once-a-paragraph. It's about sex. Mostly sex, but also of love (what is it) and sin (a quest for it) and front porches and Southern aristocracy, and if you're very careful, even a waft of Lancelot and Perceval. The first-person narrative simply sweeps away. Recommended. [If the c-word offends you, then perhaps re-consider this book.]
Paul Dinger
I thought this was self indulgent. The problem with a lot of first person narratives is that the narration becomes about the person and whatever story you may want to read gets lost. I was looking forward to reading this book and was disappointed. I got to page sixty and had that lost feeling like I didn't know what was happening. I am not someone who expects a book to grab you, but when you are uninvolved by a third of the way, you probably won't be.
Audrey
Lancelot has interesting moments. Certainly the character portrait is very interesting. However, I found other aspects of it (such as a constant stream of hints that the modern world is hopelessly degenerate) tiresome. It would be good for people who are interested in looking at the idea of evil and Hell from the Christian standpoint. I won't say it's a bad book, because it isn't. For some reason that I can't explain, it rubbed me the wrong way.
Meredith
Sort of a silly POV.... flawed and unconvincing, I thought. And a bit hackneyed, honestly... but still, people recalling their "story" in the past-tense from a mental institution = easy storytelling set-up.

I did have a serious sense of dread throughout the story, however; I was genuinely excited, flipping pages, to see the climax. It was *almost* worth it.

Sam Carr
brilliant. best novelist ever to live. particularly interested with Percy's interest in dealing with characters in the middle of existential crises. I very much liked how the character in this book believes the only way to start over and save humanity by moving from the Mississippi Valley to a farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley
Sharon
My review of this book might change in the next few days. I read it, I love it, but unfortunately, the last line blew up my entire understanding of the story.
So, it's fantastic in the usual painful, song of songs sort of way that Walker Percy liked to write. But I'm trying to find someone to explain the dern thing to me.
Stacey
Lancelot is a man haunted by demons...everyone else's demons. He has a view of the way the world should be, and no one is living up to his expectations. He becomes a man on a mission.

Written in the mid 70's, the entire book is Lancelot's monologue to a silent visitor. It's a great way to tell a story. Fair warning: Lancelot's feelings about race, gender expectations and sexuality, while possibly appropriate for the South at that time, make for rough reading today. I admit, I read the last page m
...more
Megan
Interesting story line and critique of the 60's free love philosophy. Not a fan of the ending that really wasn't an ending. Overall, glad I can say I read it but not one that I would recommend to anyone for an enjoyable read.
David
For a book about adultery, murder, insanity, and arson you wouldn't expect to laugh as much as I did reading Walker Percy's Lancelot. The book is wonderfully narrated and an interesting commentary on modern life.
Mommalibrarian
Quick read. Southern male, Lancelot, either in jail or a mental institution thinking back over something he may have done. Faithful depiction of his interrelations with some black people may not be politically correct by today's standards but they are not outrageously offensive, just descriptive of the time. Literary sites warble on about the symbolism of the name Lancelot and the quest for the grail. This was of little interest to me and did not overwhelm the story. I consider it a weakness in ...more
Audrey
Apparently this is Percy's attempt to express the damages of the sexual revolution and his frustration at modern complacency to evil. However, most of the book just seems to wallow in the very things it tries to expose.

My professor assured us that, while the book is disturbing, the preface from Dante's Purgatorio shows that the point is to seek salvation, not to dwell in the derangement. That's a solid enough aim, but I don't think the book succeeds. The narrating protagonist is such a mix of l
...more
Leif
**Update: I finished this for the second time, and loved it even more this time around. In some ways, this is Percy's most forthright novel, with the protagonist/narrator acting on things his other novel's characters contemplate and/or obsess on but rarely do. And so many good lines in here! Here's an example:

"What could be finer than to be a grown healthy man and to meet a fine-looking woman you've never seen before and want her on the spot and to see also that she likes you, to invite her to h
...more
Kenneth
A peculiar later novel of Walker Percy. Similar to his earlier material in some ways. Driven by darker character themes.

The novel starts off much like Percy’s other novels with a slightly different form. The first person narration recounts events in retrospect from the perspective of an institutionalized man (Lancelot) talking to a childhood friend who is a priest/psychiatrist.

Lancelot, the protagonist, informally confesses to the priest/friend an involved story that ends in discovering his wif
...more
Jude Morrissey
Percy, Walker. Lancelot. New York : Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1977.

Walker Percy, a Southern writer with a particular interest in fiction as a conduit for philosophical and existentialist reflection, wrote a number of novels, the first of which - The Moviegoer - won the National Book Award in fiction. In Lancelot, Percy relates the story of a liberal New Orleans lawyer, Lancelot Andrewes Lamar, who finds himself reluctantly remembering events that led him to his current incarceration in the Insti
...more
Margaret Kerry
I marked this as "want to read" because I always want to read Walker Percy's books. He is my favorite author because he is locating the malaise in our world through fiction. There are two ways to read Percy. One is to sit with the text in a kind of "lectio divina" meditation on the sentences. Another is to read the book once through and then read it again thoughtfully. I find that when I do either of these I come out on the other side lighter and feeling understood by a person who has been at th ...more
Tom Brennan
Imagine if an odd commingling of Don Quixote and the Arthurian legend were narrated by Quentin Compson using Amadeus' device of a priest hearing the main character's story. That's pretty much what goes on in Walker Percy's Lancelot. The eponymous main character (to me) is an unreliable narrator, but it is his and only his version of events we are getting.

When I started reading it, I thought the writing was amazing but getting further into the story it seems to get bogged down in Lancelot's many
...more
Emily
my first Percy. my creative writing teacher at Tulane adored this guy and i've been meaning to read him for a decade+.

i liked a lot of the writing, and Lancelot has some absolutely remarkable visions of New Orleans (which i'm a pure sucker for). but the weird thesis of purity - which stems from the main character's late-in-life, naive & misogynistic realisation that women are creatures of sexual pleasure *just like men shock horror* - was off-putting.

i think it's brilliant craft to write uni
...more
Kathy
I'm not sure what to say about this one. I had read The Moviegoer years ago and liked it very much. There are parts of this book, which is essentially a monologue spoken by someone who may or may not be sane, that I thought were so well-written and then other parts that came off as misogynistic ramblings involving the nature of good and evil. So even though the writing was very good I'm not sure that I would recommend this one.
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Walker Percy (1916–1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a US senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction t ...more
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“Have you noticed that the narrower the view the more you can see? For the first time I understand how old ladies can sit on their porches for years.” 5 likes
“Yes, interest! The worm of interest. Are you surprised? No? Yes? One conclusion I have reached here after a year in my cell is that the only emotion people feel nowadays is interest or the lack of it. Curiosity and interest and boredom have replaced the so-called emotions we used to read about in novels or see registered on actors' faces. Even the horrors of the age translate into interest. Did you ever watch anybody pick up a newspaper and read the headline PLANE CRASH KILLS THREE HUNDRED? How horrible! says the reader. But look at him when he hands you the paper. Is he horrified? No, he is interested. When is the last time you saw anybody horrified?” 4 likes
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