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Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book Trade Paperback Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312253998
ISBN-10: 0312253990
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“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.” ―Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Original and imaginative, it conveys a serious, occasionally somber message in a vein of high comedy. I love this book. It is not to be read once through, but to be reread, savored, and pondered.” ―Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

“This is a stunningly innovative collection, for readers who like both to chuckle and to think hard.” ―People

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Trade Paperback Edition edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312253990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312253998
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. H. Mckinnie on 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Imagine a young man, freshly graduated from a mediocre State College. He studied music, or painting, or sociology, i.e. something a bit idealistic in ambition but rather quite useless to him in actual practice. He is in a used bookstore in a large Northeastern Metropolis and comes across a book entitled, "Lost in the Cosmos". He is intrigued. He flips intently through the book to ascertain if the little money he has to his name should be used to buy it. Certainly the title speaks to him. He, too, feels lost--maybe not "in the cosmos" so much but certainly in his own general vicinity. Nonetheless, little of the book quite makes sense to him. Let's face it, he wants to *stop* feeling lost, not go further into this awful feeling. He wants an answer, one that he can understand. He wants to be found, dammit! So, he puts the book down and moves on.

Twenty years later the man--now, alas, not so young--has been reading the novels of Walker Percy, e.g. "Love in the Ruins", or "Lancelot" and is reminded of "Lost in the Cosmos". He finally orders it online. After two decades of self-loathing masquerading as inflated notions of self-worth; after a lifetime of so many bad choices followed by even worse choices (punctuated by some really monumentally bad choices bordering on the comical) he finally reads the book.

He starts to get it, or so he hopes. The book explains his own life so brilliantly, not just his to be sure, but virtually everyone he knows. It is so pitch-perfect in laying out the dilemma of the free-floating, postmodern, nihilistic, autonomous self--and the various attempts to overcome this empty nothing we feel ourselves to be--that he is finally stunned into silence. More than anything else he finds this silence compelling. A choice is required.
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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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