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Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy

Love in the Ruins (1971)

by Walker Percy

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Since the only Walker Percy novel I'd read previous to this one was "The Moviegoer," this came as sort of a surprise. "Love in the Ruins" is a political and religious satire set in the near future that focuses on Tom More, a doctor, inventor, bad Catholic, rum toddy enthusiast, and all-around sybarite. Tom himself is a likable character, and his efforts at navigating the shoals of the extreme political movements that have overcome the United States as he deals with personal tragedy will likely make him a sympathetic figure to many readers. But the real attraction of the book is its setting, which reflects both the natural beauty of the American South -- it's described as a lush, fertile barely controlled jungle -- and its take on our political future, which is both very much of its time (1971) and eerily prescient. While some of the aspects of the political scene that Percy presents here proved pretty transitory (love children! an armed, militant, separatist Black Power movement!) his description of partisans separated by culture and politics living side by side seems a lot like the modern United States. Either things haven't changed all that much from the early seventies or Percy was an unusually acute political and cultural oracle.

But considering that "The Moviegoer" was a pretty clear descendant of European existentialist novels, what really surprised me about "Love in the Ruins" was its unbridled sensuality: Dr. Tom More loves good-looking women with all his being, and Percy writes them very skillfully. Meanwhile, the forest runs wild: vines burst through the concrete as guerrillas and hippies take over the nearby swamp. This might be a Southern Catholic's response to the more ascetic aspects American Protestantism, though the conflation of consumer culture, nationalism, and religion also comes in for some criticism, too. But the book's also more playful and more lively than "The Moviegoer" was: there are times when you might be forgiven for thinking that you were reading a thriller of some sort.

I'm a bit less attuned to Percy's religious themes than I probably should be: I'm an even worse Catholic than Dr. More. But I think there's also, via a technological metaphor, an attempt here to reconcile humankind's base and lofty desires, as the main character fairly bursts with both. And maybe a plea, of some sort, for forgiveness -- from God, for each other, and for ourselves. Surprisingly enjoyable and recommended. ( )
3 vote TheAmpersand | Sep 26, 2017 |
Love in the Ruins. Walker Percy. 1971. Walker’s futuristic satire of the state of his contemporary world and the people in it is not at all dated. He paints a bleak picture of a society in freefall full of self-important academics, weird hippies, country clubbers, physicians and psychologists, angry red necks and Black people who are all godless and miserable. Thomas More, a physician named after his ancestor who was beheaded for his beliefs, relates the story through a haze of booze and the emotions generated by the three women he plans to bed. He has invented a machine that can locate the soul and cure its sickness. Tom’s adventures eventually lead him to examine his own soul, to return to the Catholic Church and to lean to live a simple life. This is not an easy read, Percy’s insights into human nature are masterful and his descriptions of the South and Southerners, our decadent society, and our loss of faith as a people is spot on ( )
3 vote judithrs | Mar 2, 2017 |
Percy is a master of writing. The novel concerns Dr. Thomas More, a bad Catholic, at a time near the end of the world. Not sure I understood everything, but it was fascinating to read. ( )
  marient7 | Jul 8, 2011 |
Written before The Thanatos Syndrome, but I read it on the strength of Thanatos which I'd read 2 years previously. I like the main character. Interesting chap. ( )
  woodge | Nov 20, 2009 |
A little slow and nothing spectacular in style that I’d expect from Percy. Good satire however. ( )
  jamguest | Dec 11, 2008 |
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Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved USA and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the  question came to me: has it happened at last?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312243111, Paperback)

Dr. Tom More has created a stethoscope of the human spirit. With it, he embarks on an unforgettable odyssey to cure mankind's spiritual flu. This novel confronts both the value of life and its susceptibility to chance and ruin.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:07 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Amid the decadence and polarization of a future American society, a U.S. doctor discovers a promising cure for all the ills of the human psyche.

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