[percy-l] moviegoer

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of alienation (I don't consider Dostoevsky outdated).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 
about it."
  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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