- Series: Library of Southern Civilization
- Paperback: 348 pages
- Publisher: LSU Press; Reprint edition (August 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807100722
- ISBN-13: 978-0807100721
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son (Library of Southern Civilization) Paperback – October 1, 2006
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About the Author
William Alexander Percy died the year after his autobiography was published. During World War I he fought in France with the American 37th Division, rose to the rank of captain, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with gold star. With his father, U.S. Senator LeRoy Percy, he was one of the leaders in the successful 1922 fight against the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville, and he headed the local Red Cross unit during the disastrous Mississippi River flooding of 1927. He was the author of four books of poetry and practiced law in Greenville until his death.
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I, like Nolan Bond (see his review), am also descended from those red-neck hill people that Percy puts firmly on the bottom of the social ladder. I am old enough to know that they possessed many of the same values and qualities he did though without the aristocratic poise. My Dad, Grand-father and Great Grand father would have been tolerated by his family but never quite accepted as equals. However, what Percy does is so solidly evoke the admirable qualities of a life which is intent upon transcending the vulgar, that even his elitism is charming. His remembrances of his father are so vivid and so superior to the statement of his own life, that I can admire his dad even where I just chuckle at Percy himself.
But you have to let that go. It is the wit that makes the book worth buying. The capacity to use the language as it ought to be used, understated when most deadly, evocative when most descriptive, charming throughout, which makes one yearn to have one more real conversation before death and boredom actually prevail.
Percy is without illusion about himself. He is fearless in his appreciation of those qualities transmitted to himself as well as in his own failure to rise to the nobility they require. He never matches his dad, in his own eyes or otherwise. But along the way, he reminds us that poverty is not impediment to quality, and that true freedom begins with an internal conviction. Percy does not hesitate to consider that some men are superior to others - in that he was free of certain bonds which enslave us. He was thereby able to transcend all cultures and be at home, and appreciative, in them all.
It is a life worth living, even if it wasn't always comfortable.