Unearthed: Walker Percy’s Fan Letter to Bruce Springsteen
Tags: Spirituality, Bruce Springsteen, Walker Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Catholicism, Corresp
Buried in the Utne Reader library is nearly every issue of the sorely missed DoubleTake
magazine. That’s where I stumbled across this letter from Walker Percy to Bruce Springsteen in 1989. When Springsteen finally responded, in 1993, it was to Percy’s widow. It’s a charming and intriguing correspondence that touches on the Catholicism and work of both men. DoubleTake ran the letters with a discussion between Springsteen and Percy’s nephew Will.
Feb 23, 1989
Dear Mr. Springsteen—
This is a fan letter—of sorts. I’ve always been an admirer of yours, for your musicianship, and for being one of the few sane guys in your field.
The immediate occasion is that my favorite nephew, Will Percy, has even a higher opinion of you. He is a level-headed perceptive young lawyer and generally knows what he is talking about.
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.
Since I don’t know your address I am handing this to Will who says he knows where to send it.
All my best wishes for your superb career.