nola bequeathed me a love of walker percy

Percy was fond of calling serious writers, including himself, ex-

suicides. He maintained that the writer does not create ex 

nihilo, but that “he starts with himself as nothing and makes 

something of the nothing with things at hand . . . a novelist these 

days has to be an ex-suicide.” The writer as ex-suicide becomes a 

“nought” before the challenge of the blank page, which opens him 

to the possibilities of finding an authentic “self” by discovering a 

true voice and naming reality. For Kierkegaard, one form of 

despairing “suicide” is silence before reality, which he termed 

“shut-up-ness.” Thus, Percy saw writing as a way to overcome 

despair by emptying the egoistic self in order to create a bond of 

communion with the reader. For author and reader, literature that 

honestly names the truth of being can reverse—albeit temporarily

—the death-in-life of alienation and despair. Writer and reader 

become “ex-suicides” in humility before the truth.