May 17, 2009

Walker Percy: The Moviegoer Recalled

I had somehow missed this NY Times exchange in the Reading Room Series:
The link is to the earliest available in a series of blogs about The Moviegoer. They make fascinating reading and provide a prismatic view of the novel. The only thing missing is any recognition that Percy was writing, or at least was trying to write, about a different south from the old south. Some readers do not understand that Binx's aunt's big speech is intended as a statement of the old way of looking at things that Walker Percy did not share. He was not an old would-be Roman, but the guy who grew up in Birmingham next to the golf-course.

The link above is not the first in the series of posts about the book that ran in the Times last year, but it is the earliest available.

The Moviegoer is a touchstone book for me. I was introduced to the novel, in its first paperback form, by a girl I was in love with at the time. She and I were in a summer educational program together; she was studying French, reading Camus' L'Etranger. I was studying art. She gave me a copy of The Moviegoer with the comment, "If you want to know what malaise is, read this book." If she'd handed me a copy of Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave and said, "If you want to know what cafard is, or angoisse des gares, or any of the many French words for forms of gloom and funk, read this book," I would have more respect for her now than I do, but The Moviegoer probably had a greater impact on me at the time than any book other than Franny and Zooey, which made me want to be Jewish and Irish and move to New York and show off on a quiz show. Literature. It makes you want to be what you're not. Not only what you're not, but what you can never possibly be. It should all be banned.

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