A Discovery, An Affair, An Act of Violence

Prohibitions in Walker Percy’s Lancelot

Another February is upon us with its assortment of candy hearts, chocolates, flowers, and stuffed animals all in preparation for Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the topic of conversation about prohibition(s) but also taking a look at relationships I thought I’d write a few words about Walker Percy’s Lancelot.

This is not a romance novel (Hallmark fans be warned), but it is a love story (of sorts). The story is told through the perspective of the novel’s protagonist, Lancelot Andrewes Lamar. Lancelot recounts the events surrounding the accidental discovery that he is not the father of his youngest daughter and that his wife is currently having an affair. While recounting these events to an old friend Lancelot ultimately reveals an act of violence that lead to his current confinement to a mental institution.

Lancelot by Walker Percy

Lancelot addresses several cultural/societal prohibitions and one man’s reaction (and actions) regarding those prohibitions. The novel may be over four decades old but you’ll find much of what Percy has to say is still applicable today. It’s not your typical Valentine’s Day read, but it is a realistic look at relationships.

-K-

Lancelot (1977) by Walker Percy.

Authors on Relationships

Six Bits of Wisdom on Relationships

• “I measured love by the extent of my jealousy.” -Graham Greene-

• “Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?” -Walker Percy-

• “Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.” -Sylvia Plath

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“The Start of Something”

• “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.” -Ernest Hemingway-

• “I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.” -Edna St. Vincent Milay-

• “It’s no good pretending any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.” -Nick Hornby-

-K-

The Beauty of Bourbon

You don’t need a reason to drink Bourbon, and nobody should ask you to provide an excuse for wanting to drink Bourbon on a Wednesday afternoon. But if you do find yourself wanting reasons and/or feeling pressured to provide excuses may I suggest “Bourbon” by Walker Percy. Percy’s essay discusses the beauty of a shot of Bourbon.

As the first line of the Percy’s essay sates, “Bourbon” is not written by an expert (so the know it all whiskey snobs out there can go elsewhere). Instead, Percy provides us with an overview of the beauty of Bourbon and the benefits of knocking back a shot. These aesthetic benefits range from enjoying the taste to dealing with the “…anomie of the late twentieth century…” (and several points in between). Percy also provides us with several examples of how Bourbon played a variety of roles in his life. These examples provide those of us who, like Percy, imbibe Bourbon an opportunity to reflect about the roles Bourbon plays in our lives.

Percy’s examples got me thinking about some of my own experiences with Bourbon. I remember my Pops buying a few jars of moonshine in Harlan County decades ago (I wonder what Percy would have thought of the taste). I think of canoe and camping trips with a bottle in my backpack, of weddings and funerals with flasks being passed around. Bourbon played an important and unique role in each of these memories. If you put each of Percy’s aesthetic benefits in a checklist, I would be able to tick each box.

If you enjoy an occasional (or frequent) shot then Walker Percy’s essay about the beauty and benefits of Bourbon is for you. And if anybody asks for a reason or excuse for why you enjoy that shot paraphrase Percy and let him or her know the effect of the shot is secondary to the joy of the shot.

-K-

“Bourbon” from Signposts in a Strange Land by Walker Percy

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