by Walker Percy
Binx Bolling, the
protagonist of The Moviegoer,
is a hard character to get a grip on. He could be viewed as passive and
withdrawn, a man without ambition. On the other hand, he may be heroic,
determined to see life as it is instead of how others want him to.
An investment broker in 1950s New Orleans and son of a well-to-do family, Binx spends his free time at the movies and with girlfriends, many of them his secretaries. His great-aunt, with whom he lived during his school days, wants him to set goals as his 30th birthday nears. Binx is more serious than his aunt realizes. He is on a search unknown to everyone but Aunt Emily's disturbed stepdaughter Kate, with whom he shares a wounded sensibility. It is a search for awareness and authenticity, and ordinary daily minutiae get in its way. "The search," Binx says, "is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk into the everydayness of his own life."
Binx is an obsessive observer; a reader making notes of Binx's thoughts and his conversations with Kate would have a treasure trove of reflections to return to. Without providing a spiritual prescription — although Percy does suggest that Binx finds meaning in devoting himself to another needy human being — this philosophical novel will prod careful readers to think more deeply about their own lives.
The Moviegoer, Percy's first novel, was published in 1961 and won the National Book Award for fiction. Percy wrote five more novels combining a Southern sensibility with existentialist philosophy.
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