From Conversations with Walker Percy (ht MS):

“The main difficulty is that of language. Of course the deeper themes of my novels are religious. When you speak of religion, it’s almost impossible for a novelist because you have to use the standard words like ‘God’ and ‘salvation’ and ‘baptism,’ ‘faith,’ and the words are pretty well used up. They’re old words. They’re still good words, but the trick of the novelist, as the Psalmist said, is to sing a new song, use new words. You mentioned Flannery O’Connor. She got around the difficulty through grotesquerie and exaggeration and and bizarre writing. As I recall, she said that for people who can’t see plainly or can’t see clearly you have to draw in caricatures — something like that — so the so-called Catholic or Christian novelist nowadays has to be very indirect, if not downright deceitful, because all he has to do is say one word about salvation or redemption and the jig is up, you know. So he has to do what Joyce did: he has to practice his art in cunning and in secrecy and achieve his objective by indirect methods.”

To order a copy of Paul Zahl’s New Persuasive Words DVD set (we’ve just received a new shipment!), which explores Percy’s diagnosis at length, go here.