Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The MoviegoerThe Moviegoer by Walker Percy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was about ten percent into The Moviegoer when I began to wonder why I was reading it. Something was driving me forward, but at that point I couldn't tell what it was.

What I look for in most novels are strong characters, interesting relationships, and complex plots. I wasn't finding those in this book. The Moviegoer is written from the point of view of Binx Bolling, a stockbroker who lives in New Orleans. His character is drawn in depth. He is a confused man who internalizes everything he sees. He is looking for the meaning of life (his search), but in the process it seems as if he's looking through a haze. The other characters in the novel speak and take actions, but their thoughts are distorted through his perspective. There were often cases where a minor character would be mentioned and I felt as if I should have known this person. When I searched the various names (I was reading on a Kindle) I discovered there these characters had been mentioned rarely, if ever, in the parts I had read. Binx Bolling knew them, so it wasn't important that the reader did.

Once I understood that this book was all about Binx, I could appreciate what I was reading. It made me think, which is the most important thing a novel can do. At the end of the copy I was reading there is a short piece entitled A Biography of Walker Percy by Judy Kahn. Here's a quote from her writing:

His handling of major existential themes such as alienation, loss of faith, and search for meaning, expressed through the characters of Binx Bolling and Kate Cuter, left no doubt that he was a writer of great philosophical depth.

I would have left Kate Cuter out of that sentence, but other than that I think Kahn does a fabulous job of defining what this book is about. I suggest reading the biography before reading the novel. If I had done that I think I would have been a better reader.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

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