[percy-l] Some Thoughts on The Moviegoer
rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com
Wed Aug 3 01:40:41 EDT 2005
I wouldn't say that I'm more knowledgeable, but, just based on MG, it seems like Percy consider the cult of celebrity to be an inauthentic referent--in other words, as long as Binx is beseeching Bill Holden and Rory Calhoun for answers, he's living in bad faith. Notice that in the epilogue, after he's made that leap to the religious, there's no need for talk of movies and movie stars any longer. Rather than the movies certifying his existence, he's able to certify his own being as well as Kate's.
Just my two cents.
Sure is good to hear a little chatter!
----- Original Message -----
From: Karl M. Terrell<mailto:kterrell at sheastokes.com>
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion<mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org> ; percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org<mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, August 01, 2005 9:01 AM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Some Thoughts on The Moviegoer
* * This communication is CONFIDENTIAL * *
I've enjoyed today's flurry of postings on this list. I definitely fall
into the 'lay' category -- perhap sub-lay -- that one of you mentioned.
I really can't contribute to this academic-oriented crowd, but I enjoy
reading the thoughts of those who are, by profession, able to spend time
thinking seriously about Percy and his connections to literature,
semiotics, Catholicism, and 4 pm angst, and who are willing to share
Perhaps one of you will take a bite at this: I've been thinking about
the scene early in The Moviegoer where Binx sees William Holden on the
street, and Percy describes the peculiar power of the celebrity image.
I'm in mind of this as I've been engaged in discussion recentlywith
others about Lance Armstrong. This led to a discussion about 'true
heroes and mere celebrity,' and the paucity of - and cynical fear of -
the former, and the overload in our culture of the latter. We spoke
about Andy Warhol's use of the celebrity image in the same way that he
used a Brillo Soap Pad box, and how these images are at one and the same
time trivial, while also serving as symbols that trigger other
I'm fascinated not by celebrities themselves, but by how they effect us.
We live, it has been said, in a time in which we see more images in a
day than rural Victorians would view in a lifetime. What are the
implications of this? What did Percy think about this?
I once saw Elizabeth Taylor in a Musuem cafeteria getting a cup of
coffee (30 years ago, when she was still beautiful), and my recognition
of her (instanteous) took my breath away. Why was that?
Is the disconnect or chasm between celebrity and hero akin to the
illusion of happiness and the state of 'alertness, awareness,
engagement,' that chaslow53 at aol.com<mailto:chaslow53 at aol.com> spoke about? While the former is
fleeting but seductive, the latter is genuine but difficult.
Let's hear from those of you far more knowledgeable about Percy on this.
From: chaslow53 at aol.com<mailto:chaslow53 at aol.com> [mailto:chaslow53 at aol.com]
Sent: Sun Jul 31 16:39:52 2005
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org<mailto:percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [percy-l] Some Thoughts on The Moviegoer
I shall see to it, by making you all read the thoughts set out below,
that no one ever again complains about inactivity on this list!
As I mentioned in a previous posting, I first read The Movieoer at the
age of fifty-two (I have shoes and neckties older than some people on
this list), and it changed my life. Without going into any detail about
how it changed my life--as Justice Rhenquist fanously said, that's for
me to know and you to find out--I have spent quite a lot of time
thinking about the book, and I would be grateful for any reactions,
either to the list or privately, about the views I am formulating but
which are far from complete.
I'm not sure that novels, good ones anyway, have a message that is
intended by the author and more or less automatically picked up by
astute readers. One of the interesting things about literature, in
fact, is how authors change their minds about their own books over the
years and how readers can come to startlingly different conclusions
With those prefatory remarks, I have come to see an element in The
Moviegoer that is clearer and clearer to me with each rereading. There
is a strong message in the book about happiness: it is in most cases
impossible to grasp, both as a concept and as a reality. Further, it is
largely irrelevant. To be alert, engaged, aware, these states of being
are more important, and more real, than to be happy. And finally, there
is only the most accidental relationship between our plans and actions
and what we hope will be our happines.
Let us take Kate as our first example. Binx, by the end of the book, is
pleased to marry her, even though they both realize that there is
virtually no chance that she will ever attain a measure of happiness,
and even in daily life she will be a constant and inevitable burden to
Not only is Binx's mother not a candidate for happiness, it is
specifically disavowed on her behalf. She employs all her resources,
including religion, in the "canny management of the shocks of life."
Aunt Emily is so wrapped up in her Stoic philosophy, with its "lost
cause-Southern" tint, that she positively embraces failure in its
Binx himself sets the terms of his search in such a way that happines
cannot possibly be the result. Instead, it is an engaged awareness that
is his goal. <<She asks, What are you going to do? I shrug. There is
only one thing to do: listen to people, see how they stick themselves
into the world, hand them along a ways on the dark journey and be handed
along, all for good and selfish reasons.>>
The two difficulties to be dealt with before declaring this attitude to
be comprehensive are Uncle Jules (He is an exemplary Catholic, but it is
hard to know why he takes the trouble. For the world he lives in, the
City of Man, is so pleasant that the City of God must hold little in
store for him.) and Mercer.
All things considered, I wonder if we can say that WP hides an important
clue for us in an off-hand thought by Binx on his way home from the Gulf
Joy and sadness come by turns, I know now. Beauty and bravery make you
sad, and victory breaks your heart. But life goes on, and on we go...
I plan on expanding these thoughts into a full-blown essay one day, but
any thoughts, criticisms (I have a wife and two daughters, aged
twenty-one and seventeen, so do not think that you can say anything to
offend me) or suggestions you have are welcome.
Brooklyn, New York
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