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Lancelot: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (September 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312243073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312243074
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A funny and scarifying jeremiad . . . Easy to read and hard to forget."--Time

"Eloquent, reckless, hilarious . . . plunges forward through tawdry bedroom mysteries toward a final grand puzzle."--Washington Post Book World

From the Publisher

"A modern knight-errant on a quest after evil.... Convincing and chilling." -The New York Times Book Review

"Eloquent, reckless, accurate, hilarious...plunges forward through tawdry bedroom mysteries toward a final grand puzzle." -Washington Post Book World

"A fine novel...Percy is a seductive writer attentive to sensuous detail, and such a skillful architect of fiction that the very discursiveness of his story informs it with energy and tension." -Newsweek

"A funny and scarifying jeremiad on the modern age. Lancelot is easy to read and hard to forget." -Time


More About the Author

Walker Percy (1916-1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a U.S. senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction titles--including the classic novel The Moviegoer (1961), winner of the National Book Award--and fifteen works of nonfiction. In 2005, Time magazine named The Moviegoer one of the best English-language books published since 1923.

Customer Reviews

Strange characters and a plot that seems to go no where.
bloom
From his despair, Lancelot's anger and rage drive him on a quest for the Holy Grail of Evil that leads to ultimately great crimes.
Rick Poce
Walker Percy really tackles evil in this, perhaps, his finest novel.
rcmhouston@hotmail.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Hunter Baker on May 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
After I read this book I had no choice but to immediately consume Walker Percy's novels. Reading Lancelot was like having the top of my head blown off and surviving the experience more awake and alive than ever. In an era where no one is really sure what they believe anymore, Percy sets out an interesting test. If you discovered clear evidence of evil, what would that tell you about the existence of good and maybe even God? I strongly suggest you take this journey and pay very close attention to the parallel travels of the main character's confidant, a priest-psychologist who is himself in crisis. If you do so, the ending will make the hairs stand up on the back on your neck.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan C. Owen on January 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a conversation between Lancelot Lamar and Percival. Lancelot, once a member of New Orleans' landed gentry, is now confined to a mental institution. Percival is a priest who went to medical school, and has devoted his life to altruistic endeavors.
Lancelot was a "liberal" southern lawyer who validated his existence by working in civil rights litigation before a discovery that changed his life.
This discovery causes a great awakening. This theme of awakening is prominent in Percy's works. A character arrives at an existential moment in which he realizes that his life to this point has been as a dream: "Do you know what happened to me during the past twenty years? A gradual, ever so gradual, slipping away of my life into a kind of dream state in which finally I could not be sure that anything was happening at all. Perhaps nothing happened." As Lancelot retraces the events in this monologue, we watch the progress of his mental state, and his weighing of possible world views. His selection of a world view will determine his actions.
Another of Walker Percy's major literary themes is captured in an encounter between Lancelot and Elgin, a black MIT student. Lancelot mused, "Unlike him I had been unable to escape into the simple complexities of science. All he had to do was solve the mystery of the universe, which may be difficult but is not as difficult as living an ordinary life."
On another level, Lancelot is a southern white who has roiling feelings about women. His struggle to allow women to be sexual creatures is mirrored in his expressed feelings about his mother, then about his wife, Margot. The reader senses a that Lancelot's feelings toward women are a river of ambivalence.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Hal Johnson on June 8, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Well, I can't deny that this is a great book, but it kind of worries me that certain other reviewers seem to be taking Lancelot's statements at face value...I mean, come on, the guy is a pretty awful person. Percy takes considerable pains to distance himself from the narrator, giving his name to Lance's audience and double (Perceval) instead.
Not that that madness diminishes the book. Lancelot's rants (which comprise the whole novel) are brilliant, though clearly mad; and the flashback nature of the plot lets Percy drop plenty of hints that something horrible has happened without giving away what it was (always a fun technique). The format of the book is an extended monologue, with Lance speaking to a silent Perceval. Some of the reminders of Perceval's physical presence (when Lance offers him a chair, for example, or reacts to something Perceval has supposedly said) can grow irritating, but they do build up to a wonderul ending. The Perceval of the grail legend remains silent too long, but that's a mistake he's not about to make twice.
Walker Percy only has two or three subjects he ever considers important enough to write about, and some readers might be sick of them by now, but Lancelot's madness gives Percy an opportunity to exaggerate and warp his usual themes till they look new again.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By rcmhouston@hotmail.com on June 6, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Walker Percy really tackles evil in this, perhaps, his finest novel. He let his demons take center stage, and the dark, brooding novel emerges for what it most certainly is, a stupendous moral examination of our culture. Lancelot is not his most widely read work, for I suspect, this very reason. One need only look at the recent tragedy in Littleton to see why. All the grief counselors and therapists attempt to explain the unexplainable. Unfortunately, since we have lost a moral speech, we can't call a spade a spade. Evil has disappeared from our lexicon and at grave cost. How appripos Percy has Lance mouth words typical of the novelist. You know he sympathizes with him-- in fact he is the sort of person Percy feared he might have become, if not for his faith, yet the moralist makes Lance the personification of pure evil. The priest-confessor, his quite solemnity hovering throughout the novel, harkens to Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, when Christ returned to view the modern world. The ideas here are so out of touch with our present Zeitgeist that most critics missed the central importance of this novel. One critic called it a brilliant "jeremiad." Lancelot is much more, and I pray the day comes when we recognize what Percy was saying.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rick Poce on December 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Percy's Lancelot draws on a thought from Kierkegaard that begins his book the Moviegoer (paraphasing), "The worst thing about being in despair is not knowing one is in despair." From his despair, Lancelot's anger and rage drive him on a quest for the Holy Grail of Evil that leads to ultimately great crimes. But, in his quest he discovers the truth about evil, that it is in fact a "nothing" because it exists only in relation to the good. However, the discovery of the "nothingness" of evil has grave consequences which Lancelot describes through much of the novel.
The dialgoue of Lancelot and Percival does a great job of showing that one's "character" is the sum total of his/her moral choices. Lancelot makes a choice for evil and reaps the consequences that spin him into moral chaos, while Percival (his friend the priest-psychiatrist) has chosen to follow the path of goodness. The book is a great comparison and contrast of the battle of good and evil that occurs in every one of us.
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