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Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  377 ratings  ·  21 reviews
At his death in 1990, Walker Percy left a considerable legacy of uncollected nonfiction. Assembled in Signposts in a Strange Land, these essays on language, literature, philosophy, religion, psychiatry, morality, and life and letters in the South display the imaginative versatility of an author considered by many to be one the greatest modern American writers.
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Paperback, 448 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Picador (first published 1991)
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Seth Holler
The pieces (essays, articles, pamphlets, lectures) are divided into three sections:

(1) Life in the South
(2) Science, Language, and Literature
(3) Morality and Religion
- Plus an introduction from the editor, Patrick Samway
- And an Epilogue, with Percy's Paris Review interview (1987) and the brilliant self-interview he published in Esquire (1977)

I'm glad to have the texts collected in one piece, and for the most part (size, type face, spacing, etc) the volume is easy on the eyes. Thanks are particu
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Graham
I had a dream where I was finishing a review of this book and the computer deleted all but the first two sentences. Let's hope for the best here.

Percy's one of my favorite writers but this collection is a bit unbalanced. Consisting primarily of essays on a variety of topics, it can give a great insight into the way the man conceived of the world but wasn't really arranged all that well. Some of the pieces had the date at the end, some didn't (though all the pieces were dated in the appendix). Ou
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Charles
I read this in college, but feel I need another bite of the cherry, as they say.

I recently (April, 2011) visited New Orleans, and thought it only fitting, perhaps cliche, to pick up a copy of Signposts from the Garden District Book Shop.

The essays read with a bit more crispness than I remember reading them back in college 2003. Maybe this crispness is that I too have matured as a Southerner, not to be too enamored with the myths of grandeur that we have created for ourselves and certainly for ou
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Mike
I found this collection of essays by Walker Percy while searching for an essay quoted in a PBS documentary on his life.

Through books, I had come to know some of his family. John Barry's "Rising Tide" focuses, in part, on his uncles and family in Greenville, MS, in the great flood of 1927. I also read his cousin Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy (as well as watching his interviews in the PBS series and on Book-TV).

I read a novel of Percy's while in college, but did not have any strong opinions abo
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David
Percy here proves that he is as effective an essayist as he is a novelist. I am a big fan of essay collections because they are pithy, succinct works with little chaff and can be read piecemeal. Percy's examinations of religion, morality, existence, and Southern culture are incisive and thoughtful. Having said all this, even he would argue that the novelist can be more effective than the essayist. "Lost in the Cosmos", given its hybrid narrative-philosophical nature, often demonstrates his views ...more
Dan
Not the place to start with Percy's nonfiction—as a big, exhaustive posthumous collection it repeats itself a lot while discharging its duty of setting every occasional speech to type and commemorating every time Percy introduced his semiotics to an unfamiliar audience.

But if you're interested in the fascinating latter-day Percy only hinted at in Lost in the Cosmos, spying the Weimar doctors behind the sentimental indulgence of every technocrat, this—along with the Thanatos Syndrome—is the place
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Jacob Stubbs
So, this book contains some very fine essays by one of my all-time favorite writers, Walker Percy. It contains "Stoicism in the South," "Bourbon," various works on his semiotic theory of the self, an excellent review of Walter M. Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" (still holds the place as the best sci-fi book I've ever read), and many others. He writes with wit, intellect, and everything that one should expect from a "Southern Catholic Existentialist". If you are looking to go deeper into the ...more
Sasha
Very hit-or-miss for me. Worth reading, but not at the top of my list.
Brett
I'm really digging Walker Percy right now. This collection of essays ranges from what it means to be Southern or live in the South, to science, to literature, to religion and morality, to what it means to live in the 20th century. I agree with his perceptions of the post-modern psyche and the accompanying "malasie." I also really enjoyed his intentional pace to arguement and reasoning and his strict logical approach to so many issues.
Joel
Reading essays here and there, not all the way through.

"Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don't know what that means, either. Do you mean, do I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q. How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?"
Doug
I don't know, I've simply never been able to get into Percy's style, novels or essays. Perhaps I'll try again when I'm seventy. Things change. In any case, I'm eternally grateful to W.P. for listening to John Kennedy Toole's mother when she brought him her son's manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces.
Al


Another author I wish I had discovered a long time ago. Once again a literary tip found in some other book. Very insightful. On to his fictional works.
Fabio Hurtado
This may possibly be a collection of the most insightful essays on novel writing, the 20th Century, language, science and God, that I have ever read - brilliant!
Suzanne
Dry, dry, dry. I tend to expect Southern writers to have a little more elan than this.
Jed Park
His essay on drinking bourbon is one of the best I've ever read on alcohol.
Brandon
some brilliant stuff here, particularly his essay on the philosophy of art
Charles Vane
Jul 22, 2008 Charles Vane is currently reading it
The best short essay on Boubon ever written!
(Amongst other gems...)
Nick
The essay about the Civil War centennial was most interesting.
Martha
Apr 21, 2012 Martha is currently reading it
Because clearly I'm not "currently reading" enough.
Dakota
Oct 07, 2012 Dakota rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dakota by: Michael Jordan
"Bourbon," among other things.
Maria
Maria marked it as to-read
Mar 25, 2015
Otavio
Otavio marked it as to-read
Mar 14, 2015
Dr. Barbara Patrick
Dr. Barbara Patrick marked it as to-read
Mar 06, 2015
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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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“I prefer to live in the South but on my own terms. It takes some doing to insert oneself in such a way as not to succumb to the ghosts of the Old South or the happy hustlers of the new Sunbelt South.” 0 likes
“New Orleans may be too seductive for a writer.” 0 likes
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