Nicolas Shump's Reviews > The Last Gentleman

The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
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Jan 17, 2009

really liked it
Read in January, 2003

There is something about Percy's work that lingers with you after you have finished reading it. I think part of it is the lack of true resolution in his novels. I suppose this is related to Percy's view of humans as wayfarers. Our journeys last our whole lives. It is springs from the characters and ambiance that he creates.
I cannot recall much plot detail in his first novel, The Moviegoer, but I have never forgotten about his concept of "everydayness." It still haunts me. Similarly, from The Thanatos Syndrome, his last novel, I remember the character of Father Smith, the idea of women "presenting rearward" in this novel, and Percy's discussion of the Weimar Republic and the ideas of eugenics and abortion that were popular in this society.
With The Last Gentleman, there are Will Barrett's "fugues", Sutter, Jamie, Val, and Kitty. Each of these characters is well-defined. The ideas are there too, but I think a reader would appreciate the novels without being an expert on the writings and beliefs of Soren Kierkegaard.
I found myself wanting to find the resolution of Will and Kitty's relationship. The specter of suicide hangs over this novel. Will Sutter kill himself? I cannot forget about the discussion of suicide, Sutter's practice attempts either. I know that Percy is heavily influenced by Existentialism, but I wonder if the suicide of Percy's father is not at play too. After reading this book, I want to skip to the second Will Barrett book, but I'll probably try to go in order and maybe even tackle some of his semiotic writings too.
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