I spent most of the day in New Orleans. Had lunch with a friend in the Marigny, then went uptown to the Maple Street Book Shop to pick up some stuff for the Walker Percy Weekend festival. Can you believe we’re only about a month away? Just to let you know how devoted Maple Street Book Shop is to Walker Percy, check out this from their website:
Walker Percy was especially kind to the Maple Street Book Shop. Years ago, when he was teaching a course at Loyola, he started dropping by to sign books for us. He also let us give several autograph parties for him, even though, as we discovered later, they were a source of intense discomfort to him, as he hated forgetting people’s names and perhaps hurting their feelings.
When he couldn’t handle signing parties anymore, he was agreeable to our sending out flyers announcing the publication of a new book. We would drive over to Covington with a car full of boxes of his new book for him to sign and inscribe.
Customer response invariably yielded great piles of sometimes weird and intricate requests for special inscriptions. He would always try to accommodate and would only sometimes pass judgement in the form of a sad smile when confronted with instructions on a form to inscribe something like, “To a budding fellow writer who treads the same path and makes the same search . . . “ or “To a bourbon-lover extraordinaire—You love not wisely but too well . . . don’t blow your cool.” Once in a while, he’d look up with a slight grimace and say, “Do I know this guy?”
He also helped Maple Street Book Shop’s publishing arm, Faust Publishing Company, to come into existence by offering a speech of his, “Diagnosing the Modern Malaise,” to be its first publication, and later, two other pieces of his work.
After Walker Percy’s death, many of our customers expressed their sympathy for our loss. We really appreciated that, and we want to thank them. Many also voiced their own great sorrow. Some of the people who were most saddened did not even know him personally, but they had read his books and felt, and we understand why, that he knew them.
As a writer, his greatest gift was getting right to the heart of the matter, putting his finger right on the crucial spot. The dry humor with which he did this made his books startlingly funny, while at the same time, breathtakingly important. With regard to his faith in God and Catholicism, it was his intelligent soft-handedness that won him respect from non-believers as well as believers.
We have lost a great friend, and we remember him gratefully.
We are thrilled that Maple Street is coming to St. Francisville for the Weekend to sell Percy titles, and maybe a few others. I saw their collection of Walker Percy postcards — you won’t be able to find these anywhere else. They also showed me a copy of a book the shop printed — and it’s autographed by both Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. They’ll have it and some others for sale here in town too, so if you’re coming to the festival, bring your money. They’re great people, and you’ll be pleased to meet them and ask them about Percy. They gave me that bumper sticker above for my car.
By the way, we’re fast coming up on last call for Walker Percy Weekend tickets. Our planning committee is having a final pre-festival meeting on Thursday, and we’re going to have to decide when to cut off ticket sales for the crawfish boil (Friday) and the cochon de lait (Saturday) — this, so we can make sure we have enough food and table settings for everyone. If you are planning to come, please do not put off buying your tickets any longer. It will not be possible to come on the day of the festival and come to the dinners. The panel discussions will be free and open to the public, but those who have reserved seats will of course be given seats first. Here’s the link to buy tickets online.
As if the day weren’t satisfying enough, I met this blog’s longtime commenter Thursday for a drink at Napoleon House, on Chartres Street. He’s in town on business, and we made a plan to meet. We paid a post-Pimm’s Cup visit afterward to Faulkner House Books, then hoofed it over to Lüke, where they were having a raw oyster happy hour: fifty cents per. You can well imagine how we started out:
That’s Thursday behind the ersters. I’m not sure Louisiana oysters were his thing, but they sure were my thing, and I ate all but two. Happy happy happy. (Not so happy: news that the restaurant has taken its incredibly delicious choucroute garni off the menu; it must be da End Times). It was a good visit, though too short; I had a two-hour drive north, during which I reflected with gratitude on all the interesting people I’ve met and friends I’ve made through this blog.