Southern masculinity is something that has always been intriguing and beyond explanation for me, which is probably why I got a B on my senior thesis. I couldn’t really explain myself (this handicap permeates most parts of my life). I wrote about L.Q.C. Lamar and how he reshaped, and arguably redefined, masculinity in Mississippi and the South during the Reconstruction era. And if I ever get a dog, I plan to name her or him Lucius in homage to that period in my academic life.
. I was going through old emails, just reminiscing, and I came across this little nugget from an exchange with the guy I was seeing at the time. It was August 2010; he was a Ph.D. student in musicology at UVA. He wrote his master’s thesis about Rufus Wainwright’s Poses
album and its connection to gay culture during the pre-AIDS era. I quickly became infatuated with him as he romanced me with stories about his undergrad romps in the frat houses at UGA and introduced me to musicians I had never heard of and took me to romantic dive bars where we got sloshed on vodka tonics and held hands under the table. We commiserated about our Southern evangelical upbringings and he actually helped me gain the courage to finally come out to my parents. He played the guitar, for god sakes, and he was super humble about his talent and intelligence. He had a cat though. Which is not usually a dealbreaker, it’s just that I’m super allergic and we always stayed at his place and I would usually end up looking like Will Smith in Hitch
after an evening watching Designing Women in bed. My eyes would tear up and get all red and I would try to hide it so he didn’t feel bad about the impending asthma attack. He knew it was the kitty allergy but he’d always make me laugh because he would look at my irritated eyes and flowing tears and say, “Don’t feel bad. I know how you feel. Suzanne Sugerbaker just gets me so emotional too.” Anyway, his cat’s name was Joni. He was obsessed with 70s female songwriters (we bonded through our mutual adoration of our patron saint Dolly Parton) and I was obsessed with pets named after famous people and obscure historic figures. The point of this story is that, most recently, I have been planning to name my future dog Percy, after my favorite author of all time, but I had forgotten about Lucius and now I’m facing a serious dilemma because I’m almost 100% set on getting a dog when I start grad school in August and I don’t know how I’m going to decide which name to pick.
Walker Percy loved corgis. I think I’ll get a corgi puppy and name him Percy.
Me, it is my fortune and misfortune to know how the spirit-presence of a strange place can enrich a man or rob a man but never leave him alone, how, if a man travels lightly to a hundred strange cities and cares nothing for the risk he takes, he may find himself No one and Nowhere.
Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
The odd thing I’ve noticed is that while of course the South is more and more indistinguishable from the rest of the country (Atlanta, for example, has become one of the three or four megalopolises of the U.S.), the fact is that as Faulkner said fifty years ago, as soon as you cross the Mason-Dixon line, you still know it. This, after fifty years of listening to the same radio and watching millions of hours of Barnaby Jones. I don’t know whether it’s the heat or a certain lingering civility but people will slow down on interstates to let you get in traffic. Strangers speak in post offices, hold doors for each other without being thought queer or running a con game or making a sexual advance. I could have killed the last cab driver I had in New York. Ask Eudora Welty, she was in the same cab.
Walker Percy, The Art of Fiction No. 97, Interviewed by Zoltán Abádi-Nagy, May 4, 1973; the PARIS REVIEW
honeychurch asked: i just wanted to let you know that i adore your url! the moviegoer is such a fantastic book.
Thanks! Someone once told me that it was kind of pretentious and misleading to have a url named after a literary character. But every time I re-read it I can’t help but feel like Walker Percy wrote it for me and I am Binx Bolling. Percy (a Mississippi native) is one of my favorite authors and “The Moviegoer” is my all-time favorite book. And not in the “oh yeah, I remember reading half of it my sophomore year and this cute boy talked about it in class and I couldn’t stop staring at the brilliant things he had to say” kind of way. But in the “I read it twice a year and it never gets old, and at any given time I can find a quote or passage that connects to the way I feel about life or love or happiness or uncertainty at that exact moment in time” kind of way. Like now:
“How they take refuge in their cigarettes: the stripping of cellophane, the clash of Zippos, the rushing plume of lung smoke expelled up in a long hissing sigh.”
If Percy had written Binx as a redneck…
Or if I actually was Binx Bolling.
(Photo credit: the badassery that is South Toward Home)
You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.