The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.
The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the “treasurable moments” absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic.
A first person narrative, told through the eyes of one ordinary man, a moviegoer. In his spare time, after work, he goes to movies soley or with women. He talks of his searching for that something else in life, and he has long talks with his aunt, she’s wise and gives him the advice he needs. This is set in the town of Gentilly, an annual Carnival is to take place while all this soul searching of the main character occurs. I found it at times humorous, it is a slow burner of a read that may appeal to a certain moviegoer crowd of readers, a nostalgic appeal. You will find some good writing within this story, a few examples in these excerpts.
“Life in Gentilly is very peaceful. I manage a small branch office of my uncle’s brokerage firm. My home is the basement apartment of a raised bungalow belonging to Mrs Schexnaydre, the widow of a fireman. I am a model tenant and a model citizen and take pleasure in doing all that is expected of me. My wallet is full of identity cards, library cards, credit cards. Last year I purchased a flat olive-drab strongbox, very smooth and heavily built with double walls for fire protection, in which I placed my birth certificate, college diploma, honorable discharge, G.I. insurance, a few stock certificates, and my inheritance: a deed to ten acres of a defunct duck club down in St Bernard Parish, the only relic of my father’s many enthusiasms”
“My aunt has done a great deal for me. When my father was killed, my mother, who had been a trained nurse, went back to her hospital in Biloxi. My aunt offered to provide my education. As a consequence much of the past fifteen years has been spent in her house. She is really my great aunt.”
“To tell the absolute truth, I’ve always been slightly embarrassed in Walter’s company. Whenever I’m with him, I feel the stretch of the old tightrope, the necessity of living up to the friendship of friendships, of cultivating an intimacy beyond words. The fact is we have little to say to each other. There is only this thick sympathetic silence between us. We are comrades, true, but somewhat embarrassed comrades. It is probably my fault. For years now I have had no friends. I spend my entire time working, making money, going to movies and seeking the company of women.”
“Her name is Sharon Kincaid and she comes from Eufala, Alabama…….. She is a good-sized girl, at least five feet six and a hundred and thirty-five pounds—as big as a majorette—and her face is a little too short and pert, like one of those Renoir girls, and her eyes a little too yellow. Yet she has the most fearful soap-clean good looks. Her bottom is so beautiful that once as she crossed the room to the cooler I felt my eyes smart with tears of gratitude. She is one of those village beauties of which the South is so prodigal. From the sleaziest house in the sleaziest town, from the loins of redneck pa and rockface ma spring these lovelies, these rosy-cheeked Anglo-Saxon lovelies, by the million. They are commoner than sparrows, and like sparrows they are at home in the streets, in the parks, on doorsteps. No one marvels at them; no one holds them dear. They flush out of their nests first thing and alight in the cities to stay, and no one misses them. Even their men pay no attention to them, anyhow far less attention than they pay to money. But I marvel at them; I miss them; I hold them dear.”
“My little red MG, however, is an exception to the rule. It is a miserable vehicle actually, with not a single virtue save one: it is immune to the malaise. You have no idea what happiness Marcia and I experienced as soon as we found ourselves spinning along the highway in this bright little beetle. We looked at each other in astonishment: the malaise was gone! We sat out in the world, out in the thick summer air between sky and earth. The noise was deafening, the wind was like a hurricane; straight ahead the grains of the concrete rushed at us like mountains.”
“Yet loves revives as we spin homewards along the coast through the early evening. Joy and sadness come by turns, I know now. Beauty and bravery make you sad, Sharon’s beauty and my aunt’s bravery, and victory breaks your heart. But life goes on and on we go, spinning along the coast in a violet light, past Howard Johnson’s and the motels and the children’s carnival. We pull into a bay and have a drink under the stars. It is not a bad thing to settle for the Little Way, not the big search for the big happiness but the sad little happiness of drinks and kisses, a good little car and a warm deep thigh.”