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.