Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Review: A Pondering on Existentialism

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I’m not confident I can give a full review of Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, the 1962 winner of the National Book Award, so this may look and sound more like a “pondering.”
The best word to describe this book may be “meandering.” The setting, the language, the characters…they all just seem to kind of wander. Percy tells the story of Binx Bolling, a 29-year-old New Orleans stockbroker who is semi-bored and searching for…something (religion? redemption? meaning?). The story focuses on the week prior to Binx’s thirtieth birthday, which proves to be the week that shakes things up in his life. He’s fallen into a habitual lifestyle that includes work, frequent romps with his secretaries, and going to the movies. During this week leading up to his birthday and Mardi Gras, Binx is on a quest for fulfillment that ends up angering his family and jeopardizing the safety of his manic-depressive step-cousin, Kate.
On the one hand, this book was boring. On the other hand, I know it requires (at the very least) a second reading [the first time I read The Great Gatbsy, I hated it. The second time, I loved it].
This is a theme-driven, not plot-driven, story. Percy uses a rambling prose (which I quite liked) to explore Southern religion, family, civilization, society, humanity (etc, etc, etc) from a completely existential perspective. I’m sure there are hundreds of analytical essays written on The Moviegoer, but to me, it seems as though Binx summed it up in one line:
“We’re human after all!’

I look forward to reading again in the future.


3 comments:

Salvatore said…

This has been something on my list for some time. I think I'll enjoy the meandering quite a bit, especially if it deals with existential themes. I didn't know that that was the type of prose infused within.

Being ignorant about this book, why is it called 'The Moviegoer'? For some reason 'The Glass Menagerie''s Tom comes to mind.

Does this read like Faulkner or Woolf in the sense of fluid prose? It sounds like that genre that people call Southern gothic (which I don't really understand).

Kari said…

You know, I was going to mention the title in my review, but it would've gotten me too deep into an analysis that I don't feel prepared enough to make. There is actually very little mention of Binx's moviegoing compared to what I expected. It ends up being more a description of a personality than a simple adjective, one like Binx who is constantly "searching" and just filling his time with things like movies. I infer this because Percy uses the title-word as a description for another character, as well as Binx, in the narrative.

Salvatore said…

My interest is definitely piqued on this one. I may have to pick this up very soon.