Here’s a terrific find: an exchange of letters between Walker Percy and Bruce Springsteen. In 1989, Percy wrote to Springsteen after having been introduced to Springsteen’s music by his (Percy’s) nephew Will. Excerpt from that letter:
Of particular interest is from learning—from an article in America, the Jesuit weekly—that you are Catholic. If this is true, and I am too, it would appear that the two of us are rarities in our professions: you as a post-modern musician, I as a writer, a novelist and philosopher. That—and your admiration for Flannery O’Connor. She was a dear friend of mine, though she was a much more heroic Catholic than I. The whole time I knew her, she was dying of Lupus Erythematosus, a fatal and extremely unpleasant disease. A prime example of her faith: she was participating in a seminar with some modish ex-Catholics like Mary McCarthy. Mary, thinking to be generous toward the church, said something like: “Well, it is true, some of the Catholic rituals, like the Eucharist, are good symbols.” To which Flannery, who hadn’t said a word, responded with a single sentence: “I say that it it’s only a symbol, to hell with it.” You will recognize Flannery’s tone.
This is to say only that I am most interested in your spiritual journey, and if there is any other material about it, I’d be obliged if you will tell me.
Unfortunately, I have cancer and am taking radiation for it. I am far from well and am not able yet to receive visitors.
Springsteen replied in 1997, long after Percy died; he addressed the letter to Percy’s widow, Bunt. Excerpt:
It is now one of my great regrets that we didn’t get to correspond. A while after receiving Dr. Percy’s letter, I picked up “The Moviegoer,” its toughness and beauty have stayed with me. The loss and search for faith and meaning have been at the core of my own work for most of my adult life. I’d like to think that perhaps that is what Dr. Percy heard and was what moved him to write me. Those issues are still what motivate me to sit down, pick up my guitar and write. Today, I would have had a lot to put in that letter….
Read the whole thing. I can just see Percy and Springsteen sitting out on the back patio, drinking bourbon and looking at the Bogue Falaya.
My goal for 2016: to convince the Boss to play next year’s Walker Percy Weekend.