30 July 2012

60. Walker Percy, THE MOVIEGOER

Binx Bolling is just looking for something to hold onto. I lost count of the number of times Bolling, the protagonist (one could not say hero) of Walker Percy's debut novel THE MOVIEGOER remarked on the physicality of women around him as "solid," "fleshy" or "big-bottomed," all these words used without judgment but rather observationally. (Richard Ford, also, luxuriates in the physical description of humans without judgment. Maybe this is where he learned it.)

The solidity of these women is marked against the evanescence of Binx's sense of direction, physically and psychologically. Having returned from serving in the Korean War to his family in New Orleans, Binx (one of the great first names in literature, honestly) has a just-okay job, is trying to seduce his new secretary without putting in much effort and gets the most excited about catching a glimpse of an actor filming in the French Quarter. He wouldn't describe himself as a man without possibilities, but which to alight on?

His ennui did not make me sympathetic. I think at the time Bolling's plight of not wanting to follow in the path his family set out for him -- law school, settling into a practice, getting married -- could have been perceived as revolutionary even without some kind of impetus on the other side. Yet I failed to see him as a southern Frank Wheeler, beating wildly against his passions, because he didn't seem to have any. He isn't so much stranded as overparented (in this case, largely by an aunt who is pushing him to move into her guesthouse) and undermotivated. In 2012 I fear we would call this a "manchild," but in 2012 it might not be a plot at all because, hey, he has a job, passing love interests, a hobby. It was unclear to what higher plane he even wanted to ascend, because they all seemed like work to him. Binx's troubled cousin, Kate, who has a history of suicidal behavior and is in the act of running away from her imminent marriage, cuts a much more dynamic figure in THE MOVIEGOER, and also seems to be his other real passion (but maybe I was reading between the lines too much).

I got my '70s mass-market paperback from blogmigo Wade Garrett, who should tell me more specifically why he didn't like this book because I think our reasons were similar.

Ellen vs. ML: 58 read, 42 unread.

Next up: SCOOP, by Evelyn Waugh.

1 comment:

Peter Knox said...

I didn't like this much either. As you say, he was relatively un-relatable and unsympathetic.