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Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book [Kindle Edition]

Walker Percy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“A mock self-help book designed not to help but to provoke; a chapbook to inveigle us into thinking about who we are and how we got into this mess.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
Published at the height of the 1980s self-help boom, Lost in the Cosmos is Percy’s unforgettable riff on the trend that swept the nation. Filled with quizzes, essays, short stories, and diagrams, Lost in the Cosmos is a laugh-out-loud spin on a familiar genre that also pushes readers to serious contemplation of life’s biggest questions.
 
One part parody and two parts philosophy, Lost in the Cosmos is an enlightening guide to the dilemmas of human existence, and an unrivaled spin on self-help manuals by one of modern America’s greatest literary masters.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The late Walker Percy's mordant contribution to the self-help book craze of the 1980s deals with the heavy abstraction of the Western mind and speculates about why writers may be the most abstracted and least grounded of all. (Before taking up novel writing, Percy was a medical doctor who became a patient in the very institution where he had worked.) The book disappeared for a time. Now it's back in print. Take the quizzes in it, then take a walk--you need to be back in the world before you write another word.

Review

“A stunningly innovative collection, for readers who like both to chuckle and to think hard.” —People
“Original and imaginative . . . to be reread, savored, and pondered." —The Wall Street Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 1545 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (March 29, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004TLVNHU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,531 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good, long, fun look into the abyss August 17, 2000
Format:Paperback
One of the five subtitles of this impossibly good book reads: "How it is possible for the man who designed Voyager 19, which arrived at Titania, a satellite of Uranus, three seconds off schedule and a hundred yards off course after a flight of six years, to be one of the most screwed-up creatures in California-or the Cosmos"
This book defies description. Dr. Percy is unrelenting in forcing the reader to examine the disasters visited upon man through our almost universal refusal to acknowledge our nature, despite the high level of "self-awareness" present in what Percy describes as "the flaky euphoria of the late twentieth century." Although this "self-help" book offers nothing in the way of answers, you will feel after reading (and re-reading (and re-reading)) it that you have been let in on the greatest inside joke of all time.
This book is not chicken soup-it will not give you a set of instructions for living or boost your "self-esteem," but it will stun you with Dr. Percy's simple brilliance and it will alter the way you watch the evening news (and Donahue/Springer), cut your grass, shop for groceries, and generally manage to survive another Tuesday afternoon.
Percy also offers a concise, thoughtful examination of semiotics, a critical study of the nature of human language which he wanted to devote himself to through his novels and non-fiction, although this material does nothing to dilute the potency of the diabolically simple, yet unanswerable, "quizzes" and "thought experiments."
If you are one of those who has ever wondered about how everything started getting horribly off track (including, most importantly, ourselves) about the time that Star Trek reruns stopped regularly appearing on non-cable broadcast stations every weeknight, read this book immediately.
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BACK IN PRINT! WOO HOO! October 29, 2002
Format:Paperback
Allow me to shout it to the clouds: "I AM A PRODUCT OF WALKER PERCY!"
With Phil Donahue back on the air, Walker Percy's 1983 self-help book seems less dated now then it did in 1995 when I first read it. Now as then, it packs a wallop.
Those reviews calling it a satire are being a little misleading. This book actually IS a self-help book. In fact, it is probably the only self-help book out there.
While traditional self-help books are full of answers and leave little to question, this one is full of questions and almost entirely empty of answers. The idea is, that life is a journey that does not have a "little instruction book". And maybe, just maybe, there are things in our lives that distract us from even asking those important questions.
Are we lost? Not if we're enjoying the journey.
I don't want to go into any more detail. This book is something I have a difficult time talking about to other people. I feel like I have an intimate relationship with it that is difficult to describe to the casual outsider. The relationship was a little frustrating at times, but is now the kind of satisfying thing that has become a part of my life that has enriched me.
Fans of the work of Tom Robbins will know what I'm talking about when I say that this book is deadly serious and frivolously playful all at the same time.
Let's just say that with the sole exception of "What Color Is Your Parachute", this is the only self-help book out there that helped me. After reading this, "Dianetics" made me laugh until tears ran down my face.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BULLSEYE April 30, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Walker Percy is very much a modern-day Pascal, in that he is wrapped up in the project of waking up modern man from his numb, jaded, over-entertained stupor into realizing what a predicament he is in. It's an existentialist concern, in the Christian-existentialist sense of Kierkegaard, especially insofar as both Percy and the Melancholy Dane are obsessed with the problem of subjectivity, and our awareness of it, and the paltry ways we try, unsuccessfully, to transcend it.

So, this is NOT really a humor/satire book, per se, although the dust jacket's description tries to bill it as such (perhaps to expand the market appeal? Feh!). Early on, though, there is a send-up of the Phil Donahue show that is just *hilarious*. Most of the book is a series of (fairly involved) rhetorical questions, about such things as who in a hypothetical situation you would identify with the most, and why. The way the questions are counterposed, one could accuse Percy of making his points backhandedly via strawman-demolition, but that would be beside the point. Percy's overall aim is to get at the background of all our operating assumptions, and the ways in which we judge and evaluate others in relation to self, and what that says about what kind of thing man is.

In the middle of the book is a digression on semiotics, the theory of signs. One of Percy's central ideas here is that man's cardinal innovation over other animals is his use of signs and not just signals. The "sign" usage is essentially triangular, involving subject, object, and the intersubjective sign, whereas an animal "signal" is two-dimensional, such as "danger, run away." All of our thought and communication is predicated on that sign-based three-dimensional framework.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Delightfully flippant and provocative.
Published 1 month ago by Lauren
5.0 out of 5 stars My husband gave these as Christmas gifts to several family ...
My husband gave these as Christmas gifts to several family members. Not sure how they would rate it, but he obviously rated it very highly.
Published 3 months ago by Krista B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Turned my world upside down!
Published 4 months ago by arthur
4.0 out of 5 stars Frightening space journey
Percy's cosmic question about man's place in existence and his inability as the observer of that place to answer the question, stymied by his inability to understand himself, is... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Cody
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
AOK
Published 4 months ago by Stephen Lynott
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is spectacularly brilliant in what it has to say about the...
This book is spectacularly brilliant in what it has to say about the postmodern condition of mind and soul. Read more
Published 4 months ago by bhopkins49
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Great
Published 6 months ago by Guy Carlisle
3.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Lector
This is a recurring complaint of mine: some written words (including Amazon reviews) lose meaning as the years pass, but you have to figure it out for yourself. Read more
Published 6 months ago by L Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon humor
This is a book unlike any other I've read and thus difficult to succinctly review. So I'll just say what I don't think anyone else has - if you have ever wondered what a sense of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Emerson Dameron
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Good.
One of the best books I've ever read. A powerful vaccine against New Age Narcissism.
Published 7 months ago by Techno-Cruiser
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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.

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