Sinatra songs and the Salve Regina

This bit from the close of Walker Percy’s novel is about as good an example I can recall of a sort of sublime cultural layering—the lovely, humble juxtaposition of the transcendent and the everyday, of fallenness and grace, and of taking our cues from the best of all that culture has to offer.

Barbecuing in my sackcloth.

The turkey is smoking well. The children have gone to bed, but they’ll be up at dawn to open their presents.

The night is clear and cold. There is no moon. The light of the transmitter lies hard by Jupiter, ruby and diamond in the plush velvet sky. Ellen is busy in the kitchen fixing stuffing and sweet potatoes. Somewhere in the swamp a screech owl cries.

I’m dancing around to keep warm, hands in pockets. It is Christmas Day and the Lord is here, a holy night and surely that is all one needs.

On the other hand, I want a drink. Fetching the Early Times from a clump of palmetto, I take six drinks in six minutes. Now I’m dancing and singing old Sinatra songs and the Salve Regina, cutting the fool like David before the ark or like Walter Huston doing a jig when he struck it rich in the Sierra Madre.

from Love in the Ruins, by Walker Percy

Originally published at

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