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The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The Moviegoer

by Walker Percy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,673682,009 (3.68)1 / 104
  1. 00
    The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice (kraaivrouw)
  2. 00
    The Floating Opera by John Barth (michaeljohn)
    michaeljohn: Both are slyly humorous novels with philosophical undercurrents.
  3. 01
    Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (erezv)

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English (66)  German (2)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
A good balance of plot, philosophizing, and a passive interior wanderlust ("the search" of the "seeker") . The characters seem plucked from Faulkner's south and believable in context. The existentialism is "lightweight" in that it arises simply from Binx not making any progress from his readymade worldview at the outset. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Jul 8, 2018 |
Binx Bolling is a man in search of meaning. His life doesn’t seem to have much meaning; he goes to movies and engages in sex with a string of vacuous young women who occupy the front office secretarial position in his office. He doesn’t seem to belong to anything or anyone, but then we find he has a family and that his life is not unentangled, it is possibly too deeply entangled. There is no shortage of persons to tell him who he is, or at least who he ought to be, only a shortage of people who actually know who he is or want to see him for himself. But then, there is his cousin (not really because his aunt is only her stepmother), Kate, and Kate, like him, is a searcher who cannot find her way.

I loved the way this story developed, particularly the psychological unveiling of the characters as the plot unfolds. Binx has reasons for his state of confusion, he has survived the trauma of the Korean War and he has failed to pick up his life and sink back into the oblivion of the everyday. Kate, likewise, has endured a traumatic event and been left running from the loss of her planned future and the pointlessness of the life that has been spared to her. Aunt Emily is their foil: she is sure she knows what life is about and that she has all the answers, and she seems unable to grasp why these kids don’t just follow instructions and join the dance in-step.

Percy has woven very believable characters into a very realistic world. It is a world of class distinction, pre-determined futures, and family expectations. And, his South seems very real as well. That he understands his subject is obvious. He captures the world of New Orleans and the pressures of a Southern identity.

Nobody but a Southerner knows the wrenching rinsing sadness of the cities of the North. Knowing all about genie-souls and living in haunted places like Shiloh and the Wilderness and Vicksburg and Atlanta where the ghosts of heroes walk abroad by day and are more real than people, he knows a ghost when he sees one, and no sooner does he stop off the train in New York or Chicago or San Francisco than he feels the genie-soul perched on his shoulder.

Percy won the National Book Award for this, his first, novel, and I can see why. It has a lot going on beneath the surface. I imagine many of us have hoped to escape into the safety of a movie screen, where at least a happily-ever-after is a possibility. The problem: any such escape is temporary, when you exit the theater, you find life waiting to chew you up again. What Binx Bolling discovers is that there are no ordinary lives, there are just lives in which all the meaning we need, or get, might rest in the most ordinary of things and days, and the people who are able to see beyond our surface and glimpse into our soul.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2010):
- ..awarded the 1962 National Book Award.
- Percy read a lot of the 19th century philosopher Kierkegaard, who espoused that it is solely up to the individual to find meaning and purpose in life. So Binx Bolling, protagonist and narrator, is on a vague "search", an ongoing effort to rise above the "everydayness" that he and everyone around him seem stuck in. Oh, and he also has a bizarre fixation with movies.
~~"As Montgomery Clift was whipping John Wayne in a fistfight, an absurd scene, I made a mark on my seat arm with my thumbnail. Where, I wondered, will this particular piece of wood be twenty years from now, 543 years from now?"
- Some of the writing here is impressive. He paints a colorful picture of the anticipation of Mardis Gras, around which much of the story unfolds. Binx's nuanced descriptions of Uncle Jules, Walter Wade, his secretary Sharon, his mother, and their lives in and around New Orleans, held my focus. However, the existential theme that the author chose to employ in defining the Binx character dampened the overall impression for me. His lonely, muddled wanderings and observations come across as a bit psychotic as much as anything. His personality is depressive, distant and apathetic. (I'll forgive his clear sexism as framed by the times) I would have liked to have seen...definition, clarity of thought, a deeper intellect. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jun 26, 2018 |
Initially, one might perceive the novel's protagonist, Binx Bolling, as shallow primarily motivated to make money, to watch movies (which he frequently compares to reality), and to date each newly hired secretary. However, as accompany him on his and his relative, Kate Cutrer, on their existential journey throughout a post-WWII New Orleans, you realize that he has more psychological depth as the two explore alienation, faith, and life's meaning.

The author's interest in existential philosophy is evident in this novel's plot. If you are enjoy the contemporary author, Nicholson Baker, especially his short stream-of-consciousness The Mezzanine, you will enjoy his predecessor's The Moviegoer. ( )
1 vote John_Warner | Mar 21, 2018 |
This pops up on "Best 100 Novels" lists all the time. I do NOT get that. Maybe I'm missing the cultural context from when the book was first released. The plot is only marginal and the main character doesn't ring true to me. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
Ironic but not cynical, complex without being abstruse, hopeful without sentimentality.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Percy, Walkerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Handke, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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... the specific character of

despair is precisely this: it

is unaware of being despair.

Søren Kierkegaard,

The Sickness Unto Death
First words
This morning I got a note from my aunt asking me to come for lunch.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375701966, Paperback)

This elegantly written account of a young man's search for signs of purpose in the universe is one of the great existential texts of the postwar era and is really funny besides. Binx Bolling, inveterate cinemaphile, contemplative rake and man of the periphery, tries hedonism and tries doing the right thing, but ultimately finds redemption (or at least the prospect of it) by taking a leap of faith and quite literally embracing what only seems irrational.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Kate's desperate struggle to maintain her sanity forces her cousin Binx to relinquish his dreamworld.

» see all 3 descriptions

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Average: (3.68)
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1.5 6
2 55
2.5 23
3 182
3.5 57
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