THE ICON: Walker Percy
THE LEGACY: In 1961, Walker Percy — a 46-year-old Alabama-born med-school graduate who traded his stethoscope for a typewriter — published his first novel, the New Orleans-set existential quest “The Moviegoer.” It was an instant success, winning the National Book Award in 1962 and earning Percy recognition as a significant new American literary voice. It also launched him on a career that, built as much on philosophy as on storytelling, intertwined his thoughts on his Catholic faith, life in the South and the inherent complexities of the human condition. In addition to championing the publication of John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-winning “A Confederacy of Dunces,” he would over the course of his career produce five more novels and two books of essays. They would transform him into one of the most respected Southern scribes of the 20th century, one often mentioned in the same breath as Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.
THE ARTIST: Maddie Stratton
THE INSPIRATION: “Walker Percy was a writer. He was, of course, many other things: father, grandfather, Catholic, conversationalist, Saints fan, golfer. But most of his energy was devoted to writing. In many ways, his writings remind us of parables. Sometimes it was hard to get his point. But for all their subtlety, his stories were powerful and moving.” — the Rev. Tom Clancy, in eulogizing Walker Percy in 1990