Walker Percy quotes

  • To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Possibility

  • I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Beer #Despair #Drink

  • Fiction doesn’t tell us something we don’t know, it tells us something we know but don’t know that we know.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Fiction

  • Hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upsidedown: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.
    -- Walker Percy

    #People #Hatred #Friendly

  • Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Believe #Men #Lucky

  • You can get all A's and still flunk life.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Education #School #Stills

  • In a word, the consumer of mass culture is lonely, not only lonely, but spiritually impoverished.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Faith #Lonely #Inspiration

  • You live in a deranged age, more deranged that 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.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Life #Men #Ideas

  • Free people have a serious problem with place, being in a place, using up a place, deciding which new place to rotate to. Americans ricochet around the United States like billiard balls.
    -- Walker Percy

    #People #United States #Balls

  • Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Wander #Diversion

  • The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Spiritual #Despair #Spirituality

  • Children notice things first, people later.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Children #People #Firsts

  • One of the peculiar ironies of being a human self in the Cosmos: A stranger approaching you in the street will in a second's glance see you whole, size you up, place you in a way in which you cannot and never will, even though you have spent a lifetime with yourself, live in the Century of the Self, and therefore ought to know yourself best of all.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Self #Cosmos #Way

  • Your discovery, as best as I can determine, is that there is an alternative which no one has hit upon. It is that one finding oneself in one of life's critical situations need not after all respond in one of the traditional ways. No. One may simply default. Pass. Do as one pleases, shrug, turn on one's heel and leave. Exit. Why after all need one act humanly?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Discovery #Alternatives #May

  • Why is it that one can look at a lion or a planet or an owl or at someone's finger as long as one pleases, but looking into the eyes of another person is, if prolonged past a second, a perilous affair?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Eye #Past #Long

  • A good title should be like a good metaphor. It should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Writing #Titles #Metaphor

  • Lord, grant that my work increase knowledge and help other men. Failing that, Lord, grant that it will not lead to man’s destruction. Failing that, Lord, grant that my article in Brain be published before the destruction takes place.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Helping Others #Men #Brain

  • For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead. It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of a sentence it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death. There is little to do but groan and make an excuse and slip away as quickly as one can.
    -- Walker Percy

    #People #Doubt #Growing

  • Have you noticed that only in time of illness or disaster or death are people real?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Real #People #Illness

  • Maybe there are times when an honest hatred serves us better than love corrupted by sentimentality, meretriciousness, sententiousness, cuteness.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Hate #Hatred #Honest

  • In this world, goodness is destined to be defeated.
    -- Walker Percy

    #World #Defeated #Goodness

  • Jews wait for the Lord, Protestants sing hymns to him, Catholics say mass and eat him.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Hymns #Waiting #Catholic

  • The mystery lies in the here and now. The mystery is: What is one to do with oneself? As you get older you begin to realize the trick time is playing, and that unless you do something about it, the passage of time is nothing but the encroachment of the horrible banality of the past on the pure future. The past devours the future like a tape recorder, converting pure possibility into banality. The present is the tape head, the mouth of time. Then where is the mystery and why bother kicking through the ashes? Because there is a clue in the past.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Time #Lying #Past

  • For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man...Some day a man will walk into my office as a ghost or beast or ghost-beast and walk out as a man, which is to say sovereign wanderer, lordly exile, worker and waiter and watcher.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Angel #Men #Self

  • The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives...
    -- Walker Percy

    #Memorable #People #Treasure

  • If poets often commit suicide, it is not because their poems are bad but because they are good. Whoever heard of a bad poet committing suicide? The reader is only a little better off. The exhilaration of a good poem lasts twenty minutes, an hour at most. Unlike the scientist, the artist has reentry problems that are frequent and catastrophic.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Suicide #Artist #Littles

  • I couldn't stand it. I still can't stand it. I can't stand the way things are. I cannot tolerate this age.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Age #Way #Tolerate

  • Classes? Categories? Was that what we had come to?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Class #Categories

  • Why is it that no other species but man gets bored? Under the circumstances in which a man gets bored, a dog goes to sleep.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Dog #Sleep #Men

  • Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Emptiness #Neighborhood #Shows

  • Why is there such a gap between nonspeaking animals and speaking man, when there is no other such gap in nature?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Men #Animal #Gaps

  • It is not merely the truth of science that makes it beautiful, but its simplicity.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Beautiful #Science #Simplicity

  • Peace is only better than war when it's not hell too. War being hell makes sense.
    -- Walker Percy

    #War #Politics #Hell

  • A novel is what you call something that won't sell if you call it poems or short stories.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Fiction #Stories #Novel

  • Joy and sadness come by turns.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Sadness #Joy #Turns

  • It makes people nervous for one to step out of one's role.
    -- Walker Percy

    #People #Steps #Roles

  • The present age is demented. It is possessed by a sense of dislocation, a loss of personal identity, an alternating sentimentality and rage which, in an individual patient, could be characterized as dementia.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Loss #Identity #Age

  • Consciously cultivate the ordinary.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Ordinary

  • I sometimes think novelists write about sex in order to avoid boring themselves to death.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Sex #Writing #Thinking

  • I am not ashamed to use the word class. I will also plead guilty to another charge. The charge is that people belonging to my class think they're better than other people. You're damn right we're better. We're better because we do not shirk our obligations either to ourselves or to others. . . .we live by our lights, we die by our lights, and whoever the high gods may be, we'll look them in the eye without apology.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Eye #Apology #Thinking

  • Ignorance, if recognized, is often more fruitful than the appearance of knowledge.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Ignorance #Appearance

  • I don't like to be described as a Southern writer. The danger is, if you're described as a Southern writer, you might be thought of as someone who writes about a picturesque local scene like Uncle Tom's Cabin, Gone With the Wind, something like that.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Uncles #Writing #Wind

  • What is the nature of the search? you ask. Really it is very simple, at least for a fellow like me; so simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. This morning, for example, I felt as if I had come to myself on a strange island. And what does such a cast away do? Why he pokes around the neighborhood and he doesn't miss a trick. To become aware of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Morning #Simple #Islands

  • In this world goodness is destined to be defeated. But a man must go down fighting. That is the victory. To do anything less is to be less than a man.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Fighting #Men #Victory

  • Have you noticed that only in time of illness or disaster or death are people real? I remember at the time of the wreck-- people were so kind and helpful and solid. Everyone pretended that our lives until that moment had been every bit as real as the moment itself and that the future must be real too, when the truth was that our reality had been purchased only by Lyell's death. In another hour or so we had all faded out again and gone our dim ways.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Real #People #Gone

  • Nobody but a Southerner knows the wrenching rinsing sadness of the cities of the North.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Sadness #Cities #Southerner

  • How did it happen that now he could see everything so clearly. Something had given him leave to live in the present. Not once in his entire life had he come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself from some dark past he could not remember to a future that did not exist. Not once had he been present for his life. So his life had passed like a dream. Is it possible for people to miss their lives the way one can miss a plane?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Dream #Dark #Past

  • Home may be where the heart is but it's no place to spend Wednesday afternoon.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Home #Heart #Afternoon

  • I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Men #People #Doe

  • Ooooh," Kate groans, Kate herself now. "I'm so afraid." "I know." "What am I going to do?" "You mean right now?" "Yes." "We'll go to my car. Then we'll drive down to the French Market and get some coffee. Then we'll go home." "Is everything going to be all right?" "Yes." "Tell me. Say it." "Everything is going to be all right.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Coffee #Mean #Home

  • There is no pain on this earth like seeing the same woman look at another man the way she once looked at you.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Pain #Men #Earth

  • Where there is chance of gain, there is also chance of loss. Whenever one courts great happiness, one also risks malaise.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Loss #Risk #Gains

  • My mother refused to let me fail. So I insisted.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Mother #Failing #Adolescence

  • Losing hope is not so bad. There's something worse: losing hope and hiding it from yourself.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Losing #Losing Hope #Hiding

  • It is possible, however, that the artist is both thin-skinned and prophetic and, like the canary lowered into the mine shaft to test the air, has caught a whiff of something lethal.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Artist #Air #Tests

  • What needs to be discharged is the intolerable tenderness of the past, the past gone and grieved over and never made sense of. Music ransoms us from the past, declares an amnesty, brackets and sets aside the old puzzles. Sing a new song. Start a new life, get a girl, look into her shadowy eyes, smile.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Girl #Song #Eye

  • Not to be onto something is to be in despair.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Despair

  • Small disconnected facts, if you take note of them, have a way of becoming connected.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Way #Facts #Becoming

  • Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Hatred #Library #Facts

  • Since grief only aggravates your loss, grieve not for what is past.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Heartbreak #Grief #Loss

  • We love those who know the worst of us and don't turn their face away.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Love #Real #Faces

  • Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Cake #Alcohol #Pieces

  • This Midwestern sky is the nakedest loneliest sky in America. To escape it, people live inside and underground.
    -- Walker Percy

    #America #Sky #People

  • But there is much to be said for giving up ... grand ambitions and living the most ordinary life imaginable.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Giving Up #Ambition #Ordinary

  • Suppose you ask God for a miracle and God says yes, very well. How do you live the rest of your life?
    -- Walker Percy

    #Miracle #Wells

  • Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Self #Bored #Boredom

  • What nuns don't realize is that they look better in nun clothes than J.C. Penney pantsuits.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Clothes #Looks #Superstitions

  • I had discovered that a person does not have to be this or be that or be anything, not even oneself. One is free.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Fun #Doe #Persons

  • Like many young men in the South, he had trouble ruling out the possible. They are not like an immigrant's son in Passaic who desires to become a dentist and that is that. Southerners have trouble ruling out the possible. What happens to a... man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Son #Men #Desire

  • Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Girl #Summer #Lonely

  • The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o'clock on an ordinary morning: The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest. The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Suicide #Morning #Past

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

    #Beautiful #Heart #Men

  • They all think any minute I'm going to commit suicide. What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I'm as cheerful as a nitwit. But if I could not kill myself -- ah then, I would. I can do without nembutal or murder mysteries but not without suicide.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Suicide #Thinking #Opposites

  • It is not a bad thing to settle for the Little Way, not the big search for the big happiness but the sad little happiness of drinks and kisses, a good little car and a warm deep thigh.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Kissing #Car #Littles

  • The enduring is something which must be accounted for. One cannot simply shrug it off.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Endure

  • A repetition is the re-enactment of past experience toward the end of isolating the time segment which has lapsed in order that it, the lapsed time, can be savored of itself and without the usual adulteration of events that clog time like peanuts in brittle.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Past #Order #Usual

  • As for hobbies, people with stimulating hobbies suffer from the most noxious of despairs since they are tranquilized in their despair.
    -- Walker Percy

    #People #Suffering #Despair

  • Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Lying #Book #Human Condition

  • Genius consists not in making great discoveries, but in seeing the connection between small discoveries.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Discovery #Genius #Connections

  • But what physician has not had patients who don't make any sense at all? To tell the truth, they're our stock-in-trade. We talk and write about the ones we can make sense of.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Writing #Physicians #Medical

  • The conviction: I will not tolerate this age. The freedom: the freedom to act on my conviction. And I will act. No one else has both the conviction and the freedom. Many agree with me, have the conviction, but will not act. Some act, assassinate, bomb, burn, etc., but they are the crazies. Crazy acts by crazy people. But what if one, sober, reasonable, and honorable man should act, and act with perfect sobriety, reason, and honor? Then you have the beginning of a new age. We shall start a new order of things.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Crazy #Men #Order

  • Life is fits and starts, mostly fits.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Life Is #Fit

  • Nothing remains but desire, and desire comes howling down Elysian Fields like a mistral.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Desire #Fields #Remains

  • Being uneducated is no guarantee against being obnoxious.
    -- Walker Percy

    #Guarantees #Obnoxious #Uneducated