The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
This is the first time I’ve read The Moviegoer or Walker Percy. The novel is an existential tale told through the first-person narrative of John Bickerson (Binx) Bolling, an upper middle-class bachelor, securities trader, and Korean War veteran living in New Orleans in the mid-1950s.
I give it 3 1/2 Stars
This novel satisfies square I2 of 2015Classics Bingo: New to me author
In the beginning, I liked this story quite a bit. Binx is a decent fellow, successful, responsible, clearly going through some inner turmoil, but not so self-obsessed that he doesn’t step up to familial obligations or societal concerns. He explains early that he has begun a “search” though he is never explicit as to what he is searching for. Over the course of the novel it becomes clear, as clear as these sort of searches can be, that he is searching for meaning, purpose, fulfillment – some way to avoid everydayness.
I’m usually not too fond of these characters, ala Holden Caulfield, but Binx is far less angsty. I’d call him a high functioning searcher. I respect that. I’m all for self-actualization, finding the purpose of life, all that – but I have little patience for those who spend so much energy questioning life, that they fail to live it. Everydayness is a fact of life. Binx seems to get that.
He finds some satisfaction in making money for himself and his clients and in wooing his secretaries. He seems to be good at both. He also likes going to movies, but this is less of the central plot than you would expect from the title. He does often frame life’s experiences, places, and people in reference to some movie.
Besides Binx, there are only two other main characters: his Aunt Emily who raised him after his father died, and Aunt Emily’s step-daughter Kate. Aunt Emily understandably holds some sway over Binx, and although she seems to have genuine affection for him, she is also mildly disappointed and schemes to send him to medical school. Kate is almost like a sister to Binx, but there are hints of affections not so brotherly/sisterly. (discovered siblingly is not a word.) Kate is also searching, but is not quite so high functioning as Binx, definitely more angsty. Aunt Emily of course, is rightly concerned for both and by no means intends to stay out of it and merely hope for the best.
I said I liked this story in the beginning, but I was a little disappointed in the end, just a little. Kate’s search reaches a crisis, which brings Binx into it. Aunt Emily is disappointed with both of them, though one more than the other, and the two searchers are confronted with the reality of everydayness. I’ll let you read the story to discover if they stand firm, sell out, give up, or compromise. I was not disappointed in the outcome, but felt there was insufficient stimulus. It was a little anti-climactic.
Still an enjoyable, and easy read, a novella by most standards. My e-book was only 180 pages.
Me, it is my fortune and misfortune to know how the spirit-presence of a strange place can enrich a man or rob a man but never leave him alone, how, if a man travels lightly to a hundred strange cities and cares nothing for the risk he takes, he may find himself No one and Nowhere. ~ Binx Bolling
There are numerous allusions to Classic Literature within this novel:
Binx claims to: read only “fundamental” books, that is, key books on key subjects, such as War and Peace, the novel of novels…
Binx says: Tolstoy and St Exupery were right about war, etc.
Binx observes a man on a train reading The Charterhouse of Parma.
Binx makes reference to Robinson Crusoe, and at another time to Scarlett and Rhett.