[percy-l] The Moviegoer - Please ignore my previous posts
lowry.charles at gmail.com
Tue Oct 12 08:23:05 EDT 2010
Perhaps you would be amused or edified (different from informed, I grant) by
the views of a similar non-academic general reader who just happens to
admire, reread and frequently reflect on the Walker Percy literary corpus.
I think your view of the novel is pretty much on target. Your questions,
indeed, are more important than the answers they generate, because they
provide the jumping off point for consideration not only of The Moviegoer
but the human condition more generally.
If you ever look at Goodreads, a "general reader" book site that is, I
think, fairly popular, you can search for The Moviegoer and find quite a bit
of material. Sometimes (I don't know how they arrange these things) my
review is the first one to show up, but that should not dissuade you.
I'll reprint your questions and offer a few thoughts, although I warn you
that I am a salesman, not a professor, author or literary expert. There are
many on the list who will have sharper and more focused insights, but I
thought I would write a few words because I, too, am a general reader.
1. Is the book an existential book, contrary to what I thought? [Well, that
is going to depend in large part on what you mean by an existentialist
novel. To the extent that existential novels are concerned with alienation
and failed connections, yes, I suppose it is an existentialist novel. Where
it differs from other existential novels, and where generally "Christian
existential" thought (think Gabriel Marcel, Karl Jaspers, Paul Tillich,
etc.) differ from Sartre, Camus, Gide, etc., is in the assertion that humans
can, consciously or unconsciously, cooperate with what Binx thinks of as
"God's importunate grace" to bridge the alienating gap between and among
2. Is Aunt Emily as important to the story as I thought? [I think that she
is, because she represents a very interesting combination of strict
traditionalism and freee thinking that are both enemies of the search that
Binx is undertaking.]
3. Is his half brother as important as I thought and are the scenes with him
as gorgeous as I found them? [They are--again, in my opinion, which is short
of infallible--among the most touching and tender I can imagine, all the
more so because Binx is not a sentimental kin of guy. Reflective yes, but
4. Is the book meant to be funny and endearing or depressing? [I never knew
Percy, but here is a story of one who did. She recalls telling Percy that
she had read the book. Percy asked her straight out if she thought it was
funny. He apparently thought it was funny and deliberately wrote it that
way. It has its depressing moments, certainly, its frustrating missed
connections, but it is very funny in parts, isn't it?]
5. Is the end meant to be uplifting or are they destined for the divorce
court in a few months as so many have suggested to me? Here's how I read the
end. There was a line in the book when they were in Chicago and Kate
declared that she knew how she could live in a big city - if Binx told her
what to do. So when he is taking care of his siblings (a repetition of when
his aunt comforted him when his brother, Scott, died) and he needs Kate to
do his business for him, he tells her what to do. I just loved that. [I
don't think you can miss the hopeful ending of the book, the thing that
makes it "Christian" rather than hopelessly existential, i.e. with the help
of God's importunate grace, alientation is overcome and connections are
restored. Do you remember when Kate comes to Binx at 3:00 A.M. toward the
end of the book? "Is everything going to be all right?" "Yes." "tell me.
Say it." "Everything is going to be all right."]
6. Is Kate simply a bi polar person? Or did Aunt Emily restrict her freedom
and self expression so much that she became mad? This last was not my
impression. It was what someone suggested to me. I saw no evidence of that.
Is that in the book? [I think she is just a bipolar person. Aunt Emily,
remember, is not her mother but her stepmother, and their relationship was
no worse than Kate's relationships with others.]
On Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 4:48 AM, janet cantor <janetcantor37 at yahoo.com>wrote:
> Dear Percy-L,
> I am a 72 year old general reader and have numerous questions after
> completing the Moviegoer. Please overlook my earlier posts to the list as I
> am new to listservs in general. Please allow me to tell you of my experience
> with the book.
> I read and reread the book. I led a discussion of it in my book group. My
> reading was absolutely different from theirs. This stunned me. I found the
> book funny, endearing and uplifting. They found it depressing and hopeless.
> I include below two items I’d like to present to the list: 1) a personal
> review I wrote about the MG for Amazon, and 2) the questions I still have
> after exploring my thoughts about the book in my review. I intend to edit
> my review after I have reread the book in the future and my thoughts have
> become more clear. I am not a scholar, merely a reader.
> My overall question concerns that the book was written in the 50's. It
> seems to me that it is not correct to read it narrowly from the perspective
> of current attitudes. Please forgive any naivete I may bring to my reading
> as present in my review. I will come back to the book in about a year and
> see if I agree with myself.
> Rest assured any help or responses to this post that anyone can give me
> will be decidedly appreciated.
> Janet Cantor
> MY PERSONAL AMAZON REVIEW
> *A masterpiece, September 25, 2010
> *SPOILER ALERT. Do not read this review until after you have finished the
> book and considered it for yourself.
> If fifteen people read and reviewed The Moviegoer, they could create
> fifteen different descriptions of it. If one person read it a year later, he
> could write a completely different review of it from the one he wrote the
> year before. It all depends on what is emphasized, the southernness, New
> Orleans, the story of ancestries, the blacks and whites or the
> relationship of the story to Kierkegard. There are so many aspects of the
> novel to consider.
> This is a funny book, an endearing book. The writing is gasp inducing
> This is a book of its time, post Becket, the existentialists, and the
> absurdists. It follows a half century of the realization of the great scale
> of the horror man is capable of perpetrating on his fellow men. Salingerhas been writing about teenage
> angst. Yet, while it is so relevant to the late nineteen fifties, Binx's
> story finds resonance to this day.
> It is funny to read how Binx plots to make his secretary fall in love with
> him. The descriptions of movies and their use to him and how he makes a
> movie house more real are wonderful. Look on page 216 for a line that gives
> the reader pause on the subject of the title.
> Binx's elaborate descriptions of the components of his search make up a
> good portion of the story. Yet every time he is with Aunt Emily, he either
> can't talk about it or it seems to be smaller in importance. And in the face
> of Aunt Emily's big rant at him in part five, he understands that he is
> finished with his search.
> His search, he tells us, is to forestall the everydayness; in his head he
> criticizes other people who are satisfied with ordinary lives. All the
> while he is thinking and working out the details of his search, he is
> carrying out normal activity and conversation, and no one having discourse
> with him, knows about his interior life. The only one who knows it all is
> his fellow mentally discomfited, Kate. In the end, he will accept
> everydayness as he takes care of Kate.
> It is a great theme in a lot of literature, the concept of coming home.
> Ulysses, The Wizard of Oz, Pippin, the musical, where he realizes he is
> not extraordinary and will settle as man, woman, child in an every day
> existence, and Candide, who after his upsetting adventures will join with
> his love and just make his garden grow. And so it is here. The epilogue may
> be one of the most gorgeous things I have ever read. Tender, quiet,
> accepting; Kate and Binx will make it, I believe.
> The book is described as an existential novel. What kind of existential
> protagonist loves his job, loves making money, and goes to great lengths to
> protect his clients' accounts? What kind of existential character loves
> others, his half brother, Lonnie and Aunt Emily? He even has a kind of
> love for minor characters like Mr. Kinsella and the ladies in ticket
> booths. And Kate and Binx have a kind of love for each other.
> This book doesn't seem to be an existential novel as much as a rebuke to
> the existentialists. Walker Percy seems to be saying to them, "Come off
> it. Get with the program. It's enough already." Aunt Emily as she scolds
> Binx in Part Five represents this.
> To discuss this book and leave out Aunt Emily is to forget someone central
> to it all. For this reader she is most important of all for Binx. It is his
> love of her, he even enjoys it when she scolds him, that keeps him from
> going off the deep end. And her brilliantly written big rebuke at the end is
> what saves him from himself. One is reminded of the biblical verse that says
> now I am become a man and must put away childish things.
> One is reminded of another biblical verse when the book is over. And now
> abideth faith, hope and charity (love) but the greatest of these is charity.
> Lonnie's Faith is pure and perfect. The scenes between Lonnie and Binx are
> utterly exquisite. Binx couldn't care less about religion, yet his love of
> Lonnie makes him happy and interested as Lonnie describes his faith to him.
> And when Lonnie tells Binx he is taking his communion for Binx, that is a
> spectacular moment.
> Hope? Is there hope for Binx? I think so and I think Walker Percy thinks
> so, too.
> And, as has already been noted, love runs throughout the novel.
> I don't think this is an existential novel. I think it is a Christian
> Morality Tale.
> MY OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS
> 1. Is the book an existential book, contrary to what I thought?
> 2. Is Aunt Emily as important to the story as I thought?
> 3. Is his half brother as important as I thought and are the scenes
> with him as gorgeous as I found them?
> 4. Is the book meant to be funny and endearing or depressing?
> 5. Is the end meant to be uplifting or are they destined for the
> divorce court in a few months as so many have suggested to me? Here's how I
> read the end. There was a line in the book when they were in Chicagoand Kate declared that she knew how she could live in a big city - if Binx
> told her what to do. So when he is taking care of his siblings (a repetition
> of when his aunt comforted him when his brother, Scott, died) and he needs
> Kate to do his business for him, he tells her what to do. I just loved that.
> 6. Is Kate simply a bipolar person? Or did Aunt Emily restrict her
> freedom and self expression so much that she became mad? This last was not
> my impression. It was what someone suggested to me. I saw no evidence of
> that. Is that in the book?
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> Visit The Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> Contact the moderator: percy-l-owner at lists.ibiblio.org (note: add @
> sign when addressing email)
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