Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Moviegoer (by Walker Percy)

Here's something I just read about the novel: "The Moviegoer, published in 1961, introduces Percy's concept of the 'malaise', the angst of the lucid man in a world without gods. Through every line of Percy's works live the alienated seeking certitude... Both Binx and his distant cousin Kate (the beauty he's more involved than he'd like to be with) are self-aware characters in a world of actors, the only ones to realize the inherent falseness, the clichés, in all things."

I'm not ashamed to say I didn't quite get this book, at the end. I read that it's based on the existentialist philosophy of Kierkegaard, so maybe I need to go read some Kierkegaard to really understand it. It's on both the Time 100 list and the Modern Library's list. The basic story is one of alienation and despair, and it's not difficult to grasp, really, and I love his musings at the beginning, I was really into the book as a whole--but then at the end, when the movies are suddenly unimportant and the chronology gets confusing and the way Kate's plot is resolved... I don't know, I wasn't sure what to make of it. The more I read about it, the more I appreciate it, though. I may need to seek out some criticism and then read it again.

“What is the nature of the search? You ask. Really, it is very simple, at least for a fellow like me; so simple that it is easily overlooked. The search is what anyone would undertake if he were sunk in the everydayness of his own life. This morning, for example, I felt as if I had come to myself on a strange island. And what does such a castaway do? Why, he pokes around the neighborhood and he doesn’t miss a trick.

To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair. The movies are onto the search, but they screw it up. The search always ends in despair. They like to show a fellow coming to himself in a strange place – but what does he do? He takes up with the local librarian, sets about proving to the local children what a nice fellow he is, and settles down with a vengeance. In two weeks time he is so sunk in everydayness that he might just as well be dead.”
(page 17-18)



Blogger BC said...

Yeah, I didn't get it either. I read it for a class and we talked a lot about Kierkegaard and at the end I kind of got it, but then I forgot all about it and only remember that the book was sort of vaguely irritating.

3:34 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Well it doesn't sound like it's worth me rereading, then. Maybe I'll just read some criticism next time I get bored and otherwise move on with my reading list/life!

1:06 PM  

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