Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer excels at presenting New Orleans at Mardi Gras from an aimless, skirt-chaser who’s about to turn 30. Binx, the protagonist is asked by his aunt to watch over his cousin Kate, who’s battling depression.
There’s a lot of well-written passages on movie watching, New Orleans, Binx’s complicated family and his pursuit of each of the three secretaries he’s employed. The book doesn’t have a plot with momentum as it’s more of a slice of life. At the end there’s a little action for which Binx get’s chastised, but while in 1960, it might have been a big deal, now it isn’t.
Good style wasn’t enough to win me over with The Moviegoer. I need more engaging characters and I need some sort of obstacle for the hero(ine) to overcome. Binx’s ennui grew tiresome. He wasn’t as witty or perceptive as Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. For a rather short novel, this story dragged.
As time has passed, The Moviegoer’s vocabulary regarding race and work relations between men and women has certainly gotten dated. Binx gets romantic with all his secretaries and they’re shown to welcome the boss’ rambling hands. Percy doesn’t expect us to like Binx completely, but for me he wasn’t just flawed but overprivileged and boring.
“Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world.” Binx, protagonist
“Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we’re sentimental people and we horrify easily. True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character stinks to high heaven. But we are kinder than ever. No prostitute ever responded with a quicker spasm of sentiment when our hearts are touched. Nor is there anything new about thievery, lewdness, lying, adultery. What is new is that in our time liars and thieves and whores and adulterers wish also to be congratulated by the great public, if their confession is sufficiently psychological or strikes a sufficiently heartfelt and authentic note of sincerity. Oh, we are sincere. I do not deny it. I don’t know anybody nowadays who is not sincere.” Binx