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The Last Gentleman: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (September 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312243081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312243081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brilliant...It shimmers with the chaste and civilized ornaments of irony, understatement, and compassion." --Time

From the Publisher

"Brilliant...it shimmers with the chaste and civilized ornaments of irony, understatement, and compassion." --Time "Splendid...a beautifully textured novel...a distinguished work of art." --New York Times Book Review

"Lovely and brilliant...a highly whimsical kind of picaresque tale that puts one in mind of both Faulkner and Canneau." --Joyce Carol Oates, The Nation

"Breaks your heart in the midst of laughter." --Philadelphia Inquirer


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

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See all 33 customer reviews
I must confess I didn't finish the book.
JNeeley@mail.utexas.edu
The ending is a bit of a letdown since it just seems to end with little conclusion offered to what will happen to these unique characters.
RCM
A magnificent novel by Walker Percy, one the best "Southern writers" of the late twentieth century.
Dr. Jay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Marooned in New York City, displaced Southerner Will Barrett finds himself utterly abstracted
from his world and himself. When a chance encounter in Central Park leads him to make the
acquaintance of the Vaughts, fellow Southerners who knew his father, Will embarks on a journey
that he hopes will tell him what he desperately needs to know. What does he need to know?
If Will knew the answer to that, he wouldn't need the Vaughts, or the South, or the haunted
memory of his father. Traversing the country, Will seeks the one man he believes will tell
him what to do. Percy not only weaves a lush character study of lost Will, but realizes
a profound meditation on the nature of identity, place, and home. Above all, like any
good picaresque novel, Will's journey is not so much about the end, but about what he discovers along the way. However, as a testament to
Percy's imagination and probity, Will's final destination provides nothing less than utter
revelation. I closed this book and jumped out of bed immediately, my breath coming in gulps
as I absorbed and processed what Walker Percy had taught me with such love, patience, beauty
and truth.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Will Barrett, often bemused, confused, and having the uncanny ability to take on the characteristics of others to fit in as needed, seeks the meaning of life through his telescope (his powers of observation as well as a literal telescope), and a journey prompted by a girl he spys on in Central Park. While Will feels lost to himself, struggling with modern morality, the "new" South, and his family history, those he meets on his often humorous journey from New York back to the South, and finally, the new frontier of the West, often mistake him as the salvation to ease their own paths. Walker Percy is the master of fusing philosopy, religion, and an examination of the pitfalls in modern life with humor and storytelling.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Blue Six on June 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Deceptively meandering at first, slow to take root in the mind, Percy's 'The Last Gentleman' will reward persistent readers with an egrossing and entertaining characterization of the human condition. Will Barrett is the literary everyman who is never happy when things are pleasant, never satisfied at the feast, never more invigorated than when his contemporaries feel hopeless. And he doesn't have any idea why. A richly sympbolic telescope brings him into an encounter with a lovely young woman, a dying youth, a pornographic and incompetent doctor and a 'mean as hell' nun - all in the same family. While Barrett travels with this crew and ponders the unanswerable questions that continue to plague him, he becomes aware that the sick youth's 'salvation' may be 'up to' him. This is a skillful novel with elusive, eclectic characters surrounding a young protagonist whose only crime is an honest search for the truth, so that his life will take on some real meaning. The scene where Barrett converses with the nun while she feeds viscera to a bird of prey is particularly insightful and stimulating. A meaty, complex, thinking-person's novel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chad E. Grissom on July 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is actually my favorite Percy novel. While I believe the Moviegoer uses an excellent device, watching movies, to depict the alienation of the moder/post-modern man I identified much more closely with the engineer in this novel. Percy believed that boredom and a sense of disconnection were the ultimate products of the modernist agenda. I believe Barret perfectly describes the average denizen of modernity who doesn't know who he is, where he is going, or what he is for.
Autobiographically, I grew up as a transplanted midwesterner in the deep south. What I loved so much about this novel is how much I could identify with the main character's sense of rootlessness.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Gilmore on October 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book and wanted to get out a review while my memory was still fresh. I consumed The Last Gentleman in small doses because there was just so much. It's still settling but I think I'll have to re-read it anyhow. Where to begin? The engineer is an ideal narrater because he is such an excellent observer. That's what he does after all, views from afar, with a telescope even in the beginning of the story. He's not sure why he is where he is (did I mention that he's amnesiac) and in getting his bearings is by necesssity very keen in observing people and places. Yet despite the absurdity of his condition his actions remain plausable and despite being a dreamer he is at times the most grounded character in the novel.
What does the engineer observe? A confused, whimsical belle named Kitty who is his love, and the displaced family around her. Her con artist (in a benevolent way) of a father, her mystic, lewd brother Sutter and her mystic, martyr sister Val, her sickly brother Jamie, and finally her caretaker for a sister-in-law. In a odyssey of absurdity the engineer travels from New York City to Carolina and finally to New Mexico, facing irate Pennsylvanians and rioting students, even the police in his native town. He does so with his keen eye and lack of dishonesty, eventually untangling his love Kitty from the "loving" clutches of her sister-in-law and caring for his friend and Kitty's brother Jamie on his deathbed, leaving a wake of bewildered men and women. A great read that takes time to ingest, and who knows how long to digest.
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