At his death in 1990, Walker Percy left a considerable legacy of uncollected nonfiction. Assembled in Signposts in a Strange Land, these essays on language, literature, philosophy, religion, psychiatry, morality, and life and letters in the South display the imaginative versatility of an author considered by many to be one the greatest modern American writers.
``Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust,'' writes Percy in one of his sparkling, fluent essays on the South. Other pieces with Southern themes collected here deal with the Civil War, New Orleans, cemeteries, race relations and why this eminent novelist, who died last May, chose to live in a ``nonplace''--Covington, La. The remainder of these previously uncollected essays range widely over literature, science, morality and religion. Arguing that modern science ``cannot utter a single word'' about what is distinctive in human behavior, art and thought, Percy turns to semiotics for the beginnings of ``a coherent science of man.'' Modern fiction, he contends, serves a diagnostic and cognitive role in revealing us to ourselves in a century of spiritual disorientation. Other selections cover movie magazines, psychiatry, abortion (he opposes it), Eudora Welty and Moby Dick. Samway is literary editor of America and author of a book on Faulkner. (Aug.)