Beck, David A
dabeck at iupui.edu
Mon May 15 22:59:09 EDT 2006
I hope that the "existential salience of Binx's predicament" comes
across to my students. If not, the whole thing is a wash. But, at the
same time, Dostoevsky's underground man shares some of the same signs
of alienation (I don't consider Dostoevsky outdated). On the other
hand, you bring up a great point: America is a different world from the
world of TMG. That's why I think students appreciate Dostoevsky (and
most of mine like C&P) or any "period piece" better than something that
is somewhat contemporary.
One of my favorite passages in TMG is when Binx has a conversation with
"Oh Lord. What's wrong with the goddamn world, Binx?"
"I am not sure. But something occurred to me this morning. I
was sitting on the bus--"
"What do you do with yourself out there in Gentilly?" (39)
To me this passage sums it up: either you get it (the search) or you
don't. Walter doesn't get it. Many people make statements, platitudes,
ask questions, but never really want to "search" for an answer. It's
easy to spit out a question, but quite another to look deeply into our
own existence, our place in this world. That aspect of the novel is
probably more real today than it was when Percy wrote the book. We have
more ways to hide from the search. Or perhaps we have more ways to
disguise what we are doing and call it a search
(does that make sense?).
We have more tv channels to distract us, more obligations (taking
kids here and there--when did sports begin at age five?), more
technology (he says as he writes this email), etc. For me, the
challenge is to show students that something "ain't right" with our
day-to-day existence (or at least it's not right for most of us). So,
to show students that there is more to life than what is on the
surface, to encourage them to dig deeper and see the mystery that lies
beneath our day-to-day existence (to notice the dung
beetle)--that is what I hope this novel can do to them (as it did for
me). And, of course, I hope to inspire myself to continue the search.
Like Binx after reflecting on dung beetle, I get home and "forget all
Whew! Sorry for the long email. But the more we correspond, the more
I see the importance of this book (and am glad that I decided to try it
again). It is a novel that, according to some of us, changed lives
(that's why it beat out Catch 22 for the National Book Award--of
course, there probably is a Heller listserve....)
Thanks for all of the feedback.
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