Picks and Pans Review: Lost in the Cosmos

updated 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Walker Percy

The distinguished Southern novelist (The Moviegoer, The Second Coming) has come up with a new breed of book: a mixture of humor, meditations, odd news briefs, commentaries, observations and fiction. This book also deals with depression, boredom, money, poverty, sex, fear, exhilaration, art, religion, science, theology and biology. Add movie trivia and Indian corn dances in the Southwest to the list. Percy pretends that what he has written is a self-help book for the concerned survivor, but certainly there are far more questions here than there are answers. He offers quizzes to determine how we react when we hear good news. And what do we do when we hear bad news? What does this tell us about ourselves? There is a searingly accurate parody of a Phil Donahue show, and amazing, apparently true anecdotes: Graham Greene, for instance, will watch traffic until a car with 777 on a license plate comes by; then he can cheerfully go write. A Percy observation: American writers are jealous of Solzhenitsyn because his government thought that what he wrote was important and threw him out; the U.S. government, on the other hand, doesn't care about anything an American writer does. Lost in the Cosmos ends with a fantastic story about the world after a disaster. There are survivors, but they are a curious lot with a future that's more whimper than bang. This is a stunningly innovative collection, for readers who like both to chuckle and to think hard. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14.95)

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