I don't know what adults read in lieu of Ayn Rand, but for Kierkegaard, I've found my solution: Walker Percy, specifically The Moviegoer. Well: "found" is a bit of a stretch. I've heard of it often; I've long since acquired sufficient evidence on which to infer that it has a kind of a cult status, the kind of title that people--I think mainly guys, perhaps earnest, lonely guys--utter with a kind of hushed passion. I see from the weathered cashier's tag that I bought my own copy on October 9, 1978. That was a transitional time in my own life and I suppose I was looking for something new. Evidently I found something new, because my copy of The Moviegoer lay aside unnoticed until I was cleaning out some bookshelves just last week.
In any event, I've read it now and I'm a believer. It's all there: The Moviegoer is about the meaning of life, the mystery of existence and above all, about "despair"--or at least I think it is about despair, but "the specific character of despair is probably this: it is unaware of being despair." Who said this? Søren Kierkegaard. How do I know? Because Walker Percy quotes him in the epigraph to The Moviegoer. It's a funny, poignant, warm-hearted, richly-textured book, and as a substitute for Kierkegaard, it's top of the chart:
Uncle Jules is the only man I know whose victory in the world is total and unqualified. He has made a great deal of money, he has a great many friends, he was Rex of Mardi Gras, he gives freely of himself and his money. He is an exemplary Catholic, but it is hard to know why he takes the trouble. For the world he lives in, the City of Man, is so pleasant that the City of God must hold little in store for him. I see his world plainly through his eyes and I see why he loves it and would keep it as it is; a friendly easy-going place of old-world charm and new-world business methods where kind white folks and carefree darkies have the good sense to behave pleasantly toward one another. No shadow ever crosses his face, except when someone raises the subject of last year's Tulane-L.S.U. game.That's on page 31, and you know you are in safe hands, so you can just go along for the ride. I admit I don't quite grasp the plot if there is a plot. But plot is often lost on me. And with writing needs like this, who needs a plot anyway?