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348 of 366 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Should Be Read . . . And Then Read Again
Walker Percy was forty-six years old when his first published novel, "The Moviegoer", was awarded the National Book Award in 1962. It was, in some sense, the public beginning of the second half of Percy's life for, as Percy himself wrote in 1972: "Life is much stranger than art-and often more geometrical. My life breaks exactly in half: 1st half=growing up Southern and...
Published on June 10, 2001

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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading to complete the Percy canon
For my taste The Moviegoer has two things going for it: 1) the Deep South setting of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is engaging; 2) the plot's focus on the search for meaning is appealing. And though Percy does a good job of conveying the flatness of the world as experienced by the protagonist - Binx Bolling - perhaps he does too good a job of it and leaves the reader...
Published on January 20, 2007 by C. V. Manning


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348 of 366 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Should Be Read . . . And Then Read Again, June 10, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
Walker Percy was forty-six years old when his first published novel, "The Moviegoer", was awarded the National Book Award in 1962. It was, in some sense, the public beginning of the second half of Percy's life for, as Percy himself wrote in 1972: "Life is much stranger than art-and often more geometrical. My life breaks exactly in half: 1st half=growing up Southern and medical; 2nd half=imposing art on 1st half." But what, exactly, did Percy mean when he said this? In some sense, "The Moviegoer" is the beginning of an answer.
Percy was born in 1915 and lived his early life in Birmingham, Alabama. His grandfather committed suicide when Walker was an infant and his father, too, committed suicide in 1929. Following his father's suicide, his mother moved Walker and his two brothers to Mississippi. Percy's family was one of the oldest families in the South and he and his brothers soon found a father figure in the form of his cousin, William Alexander Percy, known affectionately as Uncle Will. Three years after his father's suicide, Percy's life was again marked by tragedy when his mother's car went off a bridge, killing her and leaving Walker and his brothers in the charge of his Uncle Will.
Percy went to medical school at Columbia University, where he contracted tuberculosis during his internship. In and out of sanitariums for several years, he finally returned to the South in his early 30s, getting married in 1946 and settling in the New Orleans area, where he lived the remainder of his life. It was at this time that Percy received an inheritance from his Uncle Will that allowed him to devote himself completely to his long-standing interest in literature and philosophy.
I relate the biographical details because, as you read "The Moviegoer", it seems (not surprisingly) heavily marked by Percy's life experience, the author's biography being one point of reference for the novel.
"The Moviegoer" is a peculiarly American and belated expression of the existential novel that had been so brilliantly articulated in France by Albert Camus. Like "The Stranger", Percy's novel focuses on meaning-in this case, the obsession of Binx Bolling, the novel's narrator, on what he calls the "search". As Bolling says at one point, "the search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life." And exactly what does this mean? "To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair." An enigmatic definition, but one which makes the reader who spends time with "The Moviegoer", who reads the book carefully and reflectively, to think more deeply about his or her own life.
"The Moviegoer" is not a novel dominated by plot. At a superficial level, the novel relates, in a wry and matter-of-fact way, a few days in the seemingly unremarkable life of Bolling, a New Orleans stockbroker whose main activities are going to the movies and carrying on with each of his successive secretaries. "Once I thought of going into law or medicine or even pure science. I even dreamed of doing something great. But there is much to be said for giving up such grand ambitions and living the most ordinary life imaginable, a life without the old longings; selling stocks and bonds and mutual funds; quitting work at five o'clock like everyone else; having a girl and perhaps one day settling down and raising a flock of Marcias and Sandras and Lindas of my own."
What "The Moviegoer" suggests is resonant of Thoreau's contention that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. But it is a desperation that arises not from the ordinariness of everyday lives, but, rather, from the failure to transform that ordinariness through contemplation and self-reflection, through an appreciation for the mundane. Thus, in the book's epigraph, Percy quotes Kierkegaard: "the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair." As Percy has suggested in another of his books, "Lost in the Cosmos" (a work of non-fiction subtitled "The Last Self-Help Book"), we inhabit a society of alienated and despairing "non-suicides" who Percy wanted to transform, through his writing, into "ex-suicides". In Binx Bolling's words: "For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead. It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of the sentence it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death . . . At times it seems that the conversation is spoken by automatons who have no choice in what they say."
"The Moviegoer" is a thoughtful and a thought-provoking book that should be read and then re-read, slowly and carefully, for every paragraph is laden with insight into the character of its narrator, the character of its author and, ultimately, the character of ourselves.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching is a full-time activity, March 26, 2000
By 
Leslie A. Sullivan (San Marcos, Nicaragua) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
This review is less academic and far more personal. Having been born in Louisiana, having lived most my life in the U.S, having corresponded w/the author before he died, and now having lived five years in Nicaragua, Percy's novel has become even more compelling. The malaise that Binx and Kate experience definitely has nothing to do w/people who spend all their day finding food for themselves and their children. What I would hope, one day, to find in the customer reviews of those who have read The Moviegoer is that it has changed their lives: motivated them to look at the entire world around them -- and begin to change it for the better, even in little steps, as Binx does in his movement away from superficiality and the emptiness of acquiring "things." He moves away from money and commercialism to compassion and being able to take care of people. He moves from lust to love, from intellectualizing to a desire for genuine spirituality. That doesn't mean belonging to a church; it means belonging to the human race: all of it, in its various forms, no matter how different they seem. Percy was clearly interested in the inner growth of self, but he also cared about the world each "self" inhabits. One of his opinions was that the problem of hatred between whites and blacks in the U.S. may eventually lead to the country's downfall. Percy's ultimate message, through Binx, is the necessity for love ... however subtle that message may seem to be conveyed in the circuitous route Binx follows in his search. As it is for Binx, it is the challenge of every indidivual to conduct his own search: to begin solving problems not adding to them, to acquire humanity not its products. Nor can a reader expect the search to be "spelled out." Doing that destroys the integrity of the process, the engagement that is essential to continual exploration -- not simply to find things but to understand what and how life means.
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66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest American Novels of the Twentieth Century, August 12, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Moviegoer (Paperback)
The novel takes place over the course of one week, Mardi Gras week, in New Orleans, and concerns Binx Bolling, the eponymous moviegoer, who will turn thirty in the course of the novel.

Binx is also the narrator of the novel, and it's his voice that gives the book its unique humor, irony, and poignance; a plot synopsis does not do justice to the complexity and compellingness of this influential novel. Binx, a dreamy stockbroker and scion of an old patriarchal New Orleans family, is (he tells us confidentially) on a search. The nature of Binx's search is only vaguely understood by the reader, but Binx himself seems to know exactly what he's talking about when he uses his own peculiar vocabulary to describe aspects of the search (words like "repetition" and "rotation" are specialized jargon in Binx's idiom, used to refer to specific phenomenon.) Percy's great achievement with this novel is handling the subtle variations of distance between the reader and Binx: Is he an entirely trustworthy narrator? Is he demented, dishonest, insane? Is he putting us on? Or does he distrust the reader? Does he know we're watching him? Binx slyly takes his part in the affairs of his family and community, all the while commenting sardonically on various aspects of modern American spirituality, all the while conducting his "search," which leads him to cross paths with his equally insane cousin, Kate, and to incur the wrath of his aristocratic old aunt.

It's a very funny, very moving, ultimately heartbreaking book, for we are never sure what has become of Binx and his search. Was his spirit defeated, or does he merely withdraw to conduct his search further outside of the reader's eye? His and Kate's love story, if that's what it is, is tragic, and Binx himself might be a tragic figure--Percy complicates the question mightily.

This is a great novel, my favorite of all novels, and it has influenced everyone from Larry McMurtry to Frederick Exley to charlatans like Richard Ford, whose "The Sportswriter" is a blatant ripoff of Percy's book. The cultural commentary of the novel (which was written in the fifties) could have been written yesterday; pay special attention to his aunt's stunning speech near the novel's end when she imperiously indicts the entire American value system. It's a glorious swan song and one of the best chewing-out scenes every written.

If they tell me I can take one book to the moon with me, this is the book I'll take.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading to complete the Percy canon, January 20, 2007
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
For my taste The Moviegoer has two things going for it: 1) the Deep South setting of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is engaging; 2) the plot's focus on the search for meaning is appealing. And though Percy does a good job of conveying the flatness of the world as experienced by the protagonist - Binx Bolling - perhaps he does too good a job of it and leaves the reader feeling at times quite as flat; indeed, too flat at points to really care much about the characters or story at all. Perhaps coming to The Moviegoer last of Percy's novels (though it was his first written) I've been spoiled by his more mature writing and am judging his first effort without that consideration in mind. Fair enough. I'll throw in that caveat and grade it as a 3 for first novels. Just be forewarned if you pick it up, it is far less engaging than his other novels - particularly less so than The Second Coming, which I think his best. Read The Moviegoer to complete your reading of the Percy canon or as a point of comparison for his later novels. Whatever you do, don't let reading The Moviegoer dissuade you from reading other Walker Percy as the rest of his works are much more gratifying and worthwhile reads.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Should Be Read . . . And Then Read Again, April 25, 2002
By 
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
Walker Percy was forty-six years old when his first published novel, "The Moviegoer," was awarded the National Book Award in 1962. It was, in some sense, the public beginning of the second half of Percy's life for, as Percy himself wrote in 1972: "Life is much stranger than art-and often more geometrical. My life breaks exactly in half: 1st half=growing up Southern and medical; 2nd half=imposing art on 1st half." But what, exactly, did Percy mean when he said this? In some sense, "The Moviegoer" is the beginning of an answer.
Percy was born in 1915 and lived his early life in Birmingham, Alabama. His grandfather committed suicide when Walker was an infant and his father, too, committed suicide in 1929. Following his father's suicide, his mother moved Walker and his two brothers to Mississippi. Percy's family was one of the oldest families in the South and he and his brothers soon found a father figure in the form of his cousin, William Alexander Percy, known affectionately as Uncle Will. Three years after his father's suicide, Percy's life was again marked by tragedy when his mother's car went off a bridge, killing her and leaving Walker and his brothers in the charge of his Uncle Will.
Percy went to medical school at Columbia University, where he contracted tuberculosis during his internship. In and out of sanitariums for several years, he finally returned to the South in his early 30s, getting married in 1946 and settling in the New Orleans area, where he lived the remainder of his life. It was at this time that Percy received an inheritance from his Uncle Will that allowed him to devote himself completely to his long-standing interest in literature and philosophy.
I relate the biographical details because, as you read "The Moviegoer," it seems (not surprisingly) heavily marked by Percy's life experience, the author's biography being one point of reference for the novel.
"The Moviegoer" is a peculiarly American and belated expression of the existential novel that had been so brilliantly articulated in France by Albert Camus. Like "The Stranger," Percy's novel focuses on meaning-in this case, the obsession of Binx Bolling, the novel's narrator, on what he calls the "search". As Bolling says at one point, "the search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life." And exactly what does this mean? "To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair." An enigmatic definition, but one which makes the reader who spends time with "The Moviegoer," who reads the book carefully and reflectively, to think more deeply about his or her own life.
"The Moviegoer" is not a novel dominated by plot. At a superficial level, the novel relates, in a wry and matter-of-fact way, a few days in the seemingly unremarkable life of Bolling, a New Orleans stockbroker whose main activities are going to the movies and carrying on with each of his successive secretaries. "Once I thought of going into law or medicine or even pure science. I even dreamed of doing something great. But there is much to be said for giving up such grand ambitions and living the most ordinary life imaginable, a life without the old longings; selling stocks and bonds and mutual funds; quitting work at five o'clock like everyone else; having a girl and perhaps one day settling down and raising a flock of Marcias and Sandras and Lindas of my own."
What "The Moviegoer" suggests is resonant of Thoreau's contention that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. But it is a desperation that arises not from the ordinariness of everyday lives, but, rather, from the failure to transform that ordinariness through contemplation and self-reflection, through an appreciation for the mundane. Thus, in the book's epigraph, Percy quotes Kierkegaard: "the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair." As Percy has suggested in another of his books, "Lost in the Cosmos" (a work of non-fiction subtitled "The Last Self-Help Book"), we inhabit a society of alienated and despairing "non-suicides" who Percy wanted to transform, through his writing, into "ex-suicides". In Binx Bolling's words: "For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead. It happens when I speak to people. In the middle of the sentence it will come over me: yes, beyond a doubt this is death . . . At times it seems that the conversation is spoken by automatons who have no choice in what they say."
"The Moviegoer" is a thoughtful and a thought-provoking book that should be read and then re-read, slowly and carefully, for every paragraph is laden with insight into the character of its narrator, the character of its author and, ultimately, the character of ourselves.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meursault meets Jake Barnes in New Orleans, October 15, 2004
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
Walker Percy's 1961 National Book Award winning book The Moviegoer introduced Camus's existentialism to the Deep South. Writing with the same detached voice as Meursault from The Stranger, Percy depicts the waning glory of New Orleans society at the end of the 1950s.

Jack "Binx" Bolling is a moviegoer. He spends his days as a stock broker and his evenings going to the movies and pursuing one girl or another (usually his secretaries). But since returning after an honorable discharge from the Korean War (he was shot in the shoulder), Binx feels disconnected from his world, confused by the New Orleans society that his Aunt wishes he would join. Just before his thirtieth birthday, Binx's faith in life is rejuvenated by an epiphany that he calls the "search." What he is searching for Binx can not articulate, but it gives his life new purpose.

While Binx seems to move in his word without interacting, watching it as he watches his movies, it would be wrong to think of him merely as an existentialist. In fact, he more closely resembles Jake Barnes, from Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises--an injured soldier moving through life listlessly, having a close but not consummated relationship with an equally distraught woman. For Binx, the woman is his cousin through marriage, Kate Cutrer, a suicidal disaffected young girl. But unlike Barnes, Binx, living in the middle of the twentieth century, must suffer not just from his war memories, but from the constant reminder that the war is never ending--the threat of an atomic bomb. And so, Binx has his movies.

Binx explains his moviegoing as such: "Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere."

Percy, like all good Southern writers, is a storyteller. Or rather, he tells a story about a people who are storytellers, and all of the people who populate The Moviegoer certainly are storytellers of the first order. They seem to spend all of their time talking of the past, or spinning webs of the possible future. This gives the whole of the book a sepia tone of memory, which is softer than Binx's first person detachment.

Initially, the vast number of characters that are introduced, and all of them have names, and all of them have relatives, living or dead, who also have names, can be confusing and make the book difficult to get into. But it is well worth sticking with it. As the story progresses, the main characters become apparent, and any ancillary characters are introduced clearly as we see them.

Percy has a deft ability to distill deep thoughts--about the nature of life, about society, about people--into simple, exquisite truths that never feel hokey or forced. And his people are vivid, their interactions complicated and real.

I highly recommend The Moviegoer. Fans of New Orleans literature--Truman Capote, Kate Chopin, will you allow me to include Faulkner--will be happy to find another brilliant Southern voice. And fans of introspective, philosophical novels--like The Stranger and like The Sun Also Rises--will have plenty to work with here.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Novel, May 11, 2003
By 
Oddsfish (United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Moviegoer (Hardcover)
Last June (under a year ago), I read this novel for the first time. I just finished reading it for the fifth time. I have never read a novel with which I related more. It is truly brilliant and truly beautiful. I've always been a big reader, and so, I have always had trouble choosing my favorite novel. That is, until I read The Moviegoer.
The novel is about the character of Binx Bolling, a businessman living in New Orleans. A week before his thirtieth birthday, Binx becomes aware of the Search, his existential quest for meaning and happiness amidst the chaos and peculiar unreality of the world. Binx is joined on his Search by Kate, with whom he shares a complex and somewhat sweet relationship.
Percy's invocation of postmodern humanity's despair is so striking and powerful. I know that it is a feeling which everyone has felt as some point, but The Moviegoer isn't just about the alienation and sadness of man; Percy offers hope as Binx achieves redemption. His leap to love, his embrace of the "mundane" world and of humanity (and God), is subtle and profound. It is impossible to express the greatness of this powerful, beautiful novel, and I don't know how to convey how much this novel means to me. I can only recommend Walker Percy's wonderful novel.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foregoing Despair, July 8, 2005
By 
Rick Poce (Philadelphia, Pa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
Walker Percy's books are more than fictional accounts of life as depicted in the South. They are philosophical works that help us become more human. The Moviegoer's essential argument is that human beings must be aware of all their actions, because aware or not, one's actions affect both himself and others. Percy opens with a quote from Kierkegaard that states that despair results from being "unaware". St. Augustine, in his Confessions, shows the ramifications of a soul that is unaware, with Percy I think he would agree that the "unaware" person feels displaced, but doesn't know why. Percy's main character Binx Billings begins the quest for "awareness" and the book centers around this quest. Binx could be anyone of us or all of us. I enjoyed the dialogue and thought provoking nature of this book and have had my high school and college classes read it as well. Most of the students have responded positively to it as a very good modern parallel to Augustine's Confessions.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moviegoer, December 14, 1999
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
During a recent conversation among some writers,artist and others, the topic arose as to some of the last best novels written. Percy's Moviegoer always arrives, never diminishes in its quality and status as a mere period piece. The book, a classic in all quarters (not just French, pun nonintentional), of psychology, spirtitual, and media, distinguishes between functional reality and noting those guideposts that lead to escapes from the drudgery of everyday life. It is a book where everything (sickness and health, sense of place and nomadicity, famial and eros), and nothing, all seem to merge (like a movie) yet never blur. With some of the most picaresque scenes occurring in and around New Orleans on the eve of Mardis Gras, circa 1960, this story holds very well together. I, too, have read very extesively, and found this book -no matter how far or wherever you go-- will be impossible to get away from. Very strongly recommend
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Percy is a master of the language he obviously loves., September 25, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Moviegoer (Paperback)
Anyone interested in the south will be delighted with the rich detail of the landmarks that populate this novel. However, those readers addicted to philosphically literary journeys will insist on making this book a permanent member of their bookshelves. Percy has a clear and healthy respect for Albert Camus; however, whereas Camus' Meursault seems to discover that he lives in a godless universe, Percy's Binx Bickerson Bolling finally finds the God of love in investigating the lack of meaning that appears to have shaped his first thirty years. Don't be alarmed: this is no didactic work, and there's a great deal of wry, ironic humor as Binx pursues women, makes money and goes to the movies. As an aside for readers who love movies as well, the movies cited -- if one knows them as well as Percy does -- add an extra dimension to the depth of Binx's search and its consequences. This is a "must" read for fans of American existentialism, good old-fashioned southern storytelling and the kinds of dilemmas most of us "moderns" are constantly trying to avoid.
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The Moviegoer
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (Paperback - April 14, 1998)
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