Walker Percy’s 1961 novel, “The Moviegoer,” is a book I’ve heard about for years, and it’s almost always mentioned in discussions of great Southern books. I’ve seen this book listed on all types of “best of” lists, which made me want to read it even more. For that reason, I put it on my “bucket list” several years ago.
I didn’t even own a copy of the book until last Friday when I stumbled across a copy of the 1998 Vintage International paperback edition. I bought it for a dollar, started reading it later that day and finished it on Sunday afternoon. At 242 pages, it was a relatively quick read.
For those of you who haven’t read this book, which won the National Book Award in 1962, it’s about a Korean War veteran named Binx Bolling. Bolling’s a young, relatively well-off stockbroker and financial advisor living in post-war New Orleans. Most of the novel is set in New Orleans, but some of it also takes place in Chicago and on Gulf Coast beaches.
I’d always wondered about the origin of this book’s title, and now that I’ve read it, I understand. Bolling, as you might have imagined, enjoys going to the movies, which is one of the ways he searches for meaning in his life. Having seen a lot of movies, he tends to compare the real people in his life with famous actors (and actresses) as well as characters in movies.
Be forewarned, this book probably isn’t for everyone. Some readers will find it boring, which others will probably find it depressing. Personally, I enjoyed the book because I knew it was well regarded and is considered a classic. While reading it, I continued to think critically about the book and to determine for myself why it’s considered so noteworthy.
As mentioned, this book won a number of awards and can be found on a number of “best of” lists and here are a few of those lists:
· TIME magazine ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 54 on its list of “ALL-TIME 100 Novels.”
· The editors at the Book-of-the-Month Club included it on their 60th Anniversary “Well-Stocked Bookcase” list.
· The James Agee Project ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 14 on its list of “Top 25 Great Southern Books.”
· In 1998, Modern Library ranked “The Moviegoer” No. 60 on its list of “100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century.”
I was also interested to learn that the book’s author, Walker Percy, was born in Birmingham, Ala. and that “The Moviegoer” was his debut novel. Of course, this left me wanting to read his other novels, which include “The Last Gentleman” (1966), “Love in the Ruins” (1971), “Lancelot” (1977), “The Second Coming” (1980) and “The Thanatos Syndrome” (1987).
In the end, how many of you have read “The Moviegoer”? What did you think about it? Did you like it or not? Let us know in the comments section below.