On this day in 1933: University of North Carolina freshman Walker Percy flunks the English placement test.
“I had just finished reading Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ ” Percy will recall half a century later, “and I wrote my placement theme in a Faulknerian style — no capitalization, no punctuation. They put me in the retarded English class, and the professor really thought I was hot stuff. Compared to the rest of the dummies, I guess I was.”
Percy will graduate from Chapel Hill and from Columbia University medical school, but he becomes best known for writing such novels as “The Moviegoer,” “The Last Gentleman” and “Love in the Ruins.”
“Work goes slow and well, particularly on little-known events, like Roanoke Island, whose neglect I cannot understand…. Loss of that island lost the Confederacy the whole NC coast, both Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and Norfolk to the north.
“Also it began the career of Ambrose Burnside — so perhaps it was a Southern gain after all, collectable at Fredericksburg.”
— Shelby Foote in a letter to best friend forever (and fellow UNC Chapel Hill alumnus) Walker Percy, Jan. 31, 1955
Foote, who had just marshaled his fountain pens and ink blotters to undertake the three-volume “The Civil War: A Narrative,” was referring to Gen. Burnside’s mismanagement of Union troops in a failed attempt to take the Confederate capital of Richmond.