Via Media

Via Media

Thanks a lot, people

None of you told me that in the last episode of Lost, Sawyer was reading….Lancelot by Walker Percy. No, I had to go read this synopsis to find that out!

Fascinating. Lancelot is the story – well, actually the confession – of a man who had murdered his wife by burning down their house. Like any synopsis that fails to do the book justice. It’s difficult and at times repulsive. But, as I have written before, one’s response to the whole book shifts on its axis with the last couple of lines – the last word spoken by the priest who is listening to Lancelot.

Quite frankly, it’s another meditation on living life without transcendence and absolutes (unless you count ego and selfishness as absolutes.)


Are you there God? …Everything is Permissible….and now, to mull over…

One of us is wrong. It will be your way or it will be my way.


All we can agree on is that it will not be their way. Out there.


There is no other way than yours or mine, true?


Is there anything you wish to tell me before you leave?


Fade to black.

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Kevin Jones

posted March 24, 2006 at 1:01 am

One of Percy’s most disturbing works. There’s a little bit of Lancelot in me. I don’t know if there’s any in Sawyer.
Does anybody track the sales of “Lost” islanders’ book club selections?

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posted March 24, 2006 at 6:14 am

Interesting too, the Lancelot is Percy’s (very excellent) rant about the depradations of Hollywood, on his sequence of rants (all very excellent) about the collapse of culture in the 50’s (the Moviegoer, the Last Gentleman) 60’s (Lancelot, the Second Coming) and the 70’s (Love in the Ruins, the Thanatos Syndrome)

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Karen LH

posted March 24, 2006 at 6:42 am

Oh, yeah. Oops. Well, if you miss an episode where Sawyer is reading something by Flannery O’Connor, I’m sure someone will remember to mention it.
I really loved Lancelot best of Walker Percy’s novels (not that I understood it all that well!), especially the way it ends just before the priest finally speaks.

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posted March 24, 2006 at 7:54 am

Oh. I thought he was reading “Here.Now.”

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posted March 24, 2006 at 9:24 am

“The Moviegoer” has stayed with me, vividly, for more than 25 years.
Anyone who hasn’t read it, should.
Amy, have you read Alice Ellis Thomas? Not that I mean to suggest she is quite like Percy.

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Sandra Miesel

posted March 24, 2006 at 10:51 am

The sales of THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien jumped when it was seen on LOST. In fact, my son gave his sister that as a gift.
So which L’Engle was he reading? It’s the one with the centaur and the rainbow on the cover but I don’t have one to check.
Sawyer backslid badly a few episodes back but he’d made spiritual progress earlier. He has the heaviest burden of sin, after Eko and Sayid.

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John O'Callaghan

posted March 24, 2006 at 11:16 am

Lancelot is a fascinating book. The genre is obviously confessional, which brings to mind St. Augustine’s Confessions. So Lancelot is the 20th century Augustine. Notice Percy’s affection for doubling of characters and historic personages–Tom More in Love in the Ruins is the 20th century Thomas More. Will Barrett in The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming is the name of a famous writer on Existentialism in the 20th century, William Barrett, author of among other things Irrational Man and The Death of the Soul. And Lancelot is a 20th century double of Lancelot from the Arthurian legend, but also, with the confessional mode, Augustine. He is what these figures would be in a world in which God is dead in the Nietzschean sense.
The reason the novel ends as it does with the priest only saying “yes” he does have something to tell Lancelot, but not with the actual message, is that Percy as an artist and novelist does not think that he has the authority appropriate to communicating the truth that saves. Notice again the parallel with the end of both The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming. Percy’s conviction here is Kierkegaardian, most forcefully expressed in Kierkegaard’s “The Difference Between a Genius and An Apostle.” Percy the novelist is not an apostle. If there is genius in his work, it is merely immanent in its ability to diagnose the pathology of modern man. Thus Lancelot’s confession. The message in the bottle that saves must come from the transcendent authority that the priest participates in.
The pairing of Lancelot in the previous show, which unfortunately I did not see, but will now look for on rerun, with Are You There God in the latest show, which I did see, is extraordinary.

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posted March 24, 2006 at 3:16 pm

Sandra: sounds like the cover to “Many Waters” to me.

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Sandra Miesel

posted March 24, 2006 at 4:12 pm

If the book is MANY WATERS, that title comes from the Song of Songs: “Many waters cannot quench love” which looks meaningful.

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posted March 24, 2006 at 4:20 pm

“Lancelot” is the only Percy novel I have read, and it has put me off reading other Percy novels. Gargling with bleach would be cheaper and would save time.
I used to own a copy of “A Wrinkle in Time” that had a centaur and a rainbow on the cover.

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Catherine L

posted March 24, 2006 at 4:51 pm

OK, it looks like I’ve been missing out by not watching Lost. How do you find out about these things before the boat has passed you by? With Church, family and apostolate, I have limited time and so I basically checked out of serial TV a long time ago. I guess I’ll have to wait for the series to come out on DVD.
However, being from New Orleans, Walker Percy was obligatory reading. Since I have an insider’s understanding of the culture, the novels are probably more meaningful to me. But I do think “Lancelot” is the most disturbing. Dillene–you may like “Love in the Ruins” and “The Thanatos Syndrome” better. Although you did make it pretty clear that you’ve been completely turned off by Percy.

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posted March 26, 2006 at 4:40 pm

When Sun asked for a pregnancy test from Sawyer, he was busy reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume :)

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Alan K. Henderson

posted March 26, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Fascinating. Lancelot is the story – well, actually the confession – of a man who had murdered his wife by burning down their house.

Interesting that Sawyer is reading a book that mirror’s Kate’s sin – murdering her father by exploding their house.
I just noticed something: Locke can walk again, Jin’s fertility problem is (aparently) cured, but Sawyer becomes farsighted. Not everybody gets miraculous healing, and some get the opposite.

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