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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Walker Evans and Walker Percy

I live in a little town. It is quite unlike the homogeneous suburbia of my youth. Oh, how I hated the suburban lifestyle.

I am always amazed at the heterogeneity of this town of around 8500: some very wealthy people, a smallish middle class, and lots of poor people. That's how a native described the demographic to us when we moved here around 20 years ago.

It makes for some strange contrasts. There are houses within a mile of my pretty house that look like they are from a Walker Evans WPA photograph. There is an active Habitat for Humanity here, thankfully.

Then we have the economic and cultural elite. As a newcomer (yes! still and forever, I'm afraid), I don't know or see some of these people. Some live in huge estates behind foliage, with houses far, far from the road.

When I wonder how a Dries Van Noten cashmere sweater ends up in Goodwill (I wrote about this a while back), I have to assume it comes from one of these houses. Ditto for all the Carlisle and St John that wends its way to the thrift shop. And then there's the Escada sweater with many insect holes that I recently wrote about.

I may know. In today's Times-Picayune, the local section featured an article on our Cultural Icons. One is Walker Percy, famous author who died in 1990, just a few months after I moved here.

His presence still looms large. I had a friend who was proud to be a member of Walker Percy's very exclusive book group, even though he was asked to join years after Percy's death.

One of the photographs in the paper featured the widow of Walker Percy. It is very poignant: she is holding a photograph of her handsome husband and, according to the text, reading his biography.

Strangely, the widow's sunglasses are as prominent as the picture of Percy. That is because the glasses sport the huge logo: ESCADA.

Because of that prominence, even before I read the story and saw that the photo commemorated a sad moment, I said to Mr. FS: "Maybe this woman is the source of the Escada sweater I saw at Goodwill!"

Yes, I am shallow and trivial. Still, it's interesting to think that the people who live in the Walker Evans-type houses may get things from the homes of Walker Percy's family and their friends.


hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I often wonder who donates designer garments too...and to what function they may have been worn!

Monied families living behind hedges with homes set back far from the street certainly arouse my curiousity...

thank goodness they recycle!

Frugal Scholar said...

@hostess--Sometimes I see names of people I know on the drycleaner's tags!

Marcela said...


I also tend to notice that kind of things (I get distracted by the background decor in movies, for example, and notice if there is no continuity between scenes hihihi)

Duchesse said...

My favourite (Toronto) vintage store receives goods from women in France and Italy who do not want to see a local in their no longer wanted items. It's fun to make up stories about the glamourous places the clothes have been.

Anonymous said...

oh, oh, oh. I think this is a lovely post and NOT shallow at all. Your donor is the neurotic, but vulnerable woman the narrator marries at the close of the MovieGoer.

I see this as meta-fiction.

Anonymous said...
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Gayle Ann Berg said...

Thank you for such a fascinating, thought-provoking post...

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Thanks--You've made me feel better.

@Duchesse--And I bet all the stories are true.

@Terri--I read that a few years ago. Is the woman (cousin?) based on the REAL Mrs. Percy? I love metafiction.

@Gayle Ann--You are sooooo nice. Thanks.