Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Thanatos Syndrome

The Thanatos Syndrome is a 1987 novel by Walker Percy. It was his last novel before his death in 1990. I consider this a science fiction or maybe a horror novel, but you'll find it shelved with literary fiction if you can find a book store that stocks it. I like the books I've read by this author (The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins) and this one is no exception. He writes a thought-provoking story.

As a Southern writer he writes Southern characters who ring true. Sometimes when I'm reading a book I'll come across something and say, "This is not something a Southerner would say," or "People down here never talk like that." That never happens in a Walker Percy novel.

There are some literary and artistic references in this book -Emily Dickinson and Tolstoy and Kurt Vonnegut, for example, and Andrew Wyeth get passing mention. There are Biblical and pop culture references, too.

favorite quotes:
  • "A great scientist said the genius consists not in making great discoveries but in seeing the connection between small discoveries."
  • "If there is such a thing as a Southern way of life, part of it has to do with not speaking of it."
  • "The Great American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, said that the most amazing thing about the universe is that apparently disconnected events are in fact not, that one can connect them. Amazing!"

from the back of the book:
When Dr. Tom More is released on parole from state prison, he returns to Feliciana, Louisiana, the parish where he was born and bred, where he practiced psychiatry before his arrest. He immediately notices something strange in almost everyone around him: unusual sexual behavior in women patients, a bizarre loss of inhibition, his own wife's extraordinary success at bridge tournaments, during which her mind seems to function like a computer.

With the ingenious help of his attractive cousin, Dr. Lucy Lipscomb, Dr. More begins to uncover a criminal experiment to "improve" people's behavior by drugging the area's water supply. But beyond this grand scheme are activities so sinister that even Tom More wouldn't believe them if he hadn't witnessed them with his own eyes....

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