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4.0 out of 5 stars
11
4.0 out of 5 stars
The Moviegoer
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 April 2014
This novel, acclaimed at its publication and clearly relished by discerning modern readers, leaves me with a dilemma. All the qualities for which it has been showered with praise: wit, insight, intelligence etc. had little impact on this reader. The lyricism and romance escaped me. Rather, I found an especially unlikeable central character in Binx Bolling, supercilious and shallow, moving in a world bereft of warmth and sincere feeling. The parallel with John Updike in one review seems to me strange. In the Rabbit and Bech novels Updike achieves energy and depth of understanding, as well as so much more authentic feeling, all of which reaches far beyond anything on offer here. This may, perhaps, explain why Percy has made so little impact on this side of the Atlantic in comparison with the finest of his contemporaries.
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on 5 March 2017
An interesting book, existentialist but also hopeful, which is rare in my experience. Well written, an objective stance taken but with a humanist slant, and quite touching. A good window onto its era, and the expiring previous social paradigm of Southern USA. A gem.
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on 29 June 2013
This is a deeply philosophical, almost academically so, book, but unlike Scott Fitzgerald it doesn't wrap itself in excessively obscure language and questionable imagery.

It's the story of man's search for meaning, and how he goes about the quest of finding meaning in his life. It touches on mental health and it's impact on those around it, in a similar vein to Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night, but without such grandiloquent language and self-regard.

It's not a page turner and it doesn't offer any trite answers, but it's one definitely one to ponder.
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on 1 March 2010
When 'The Moviegoer' was first published in 1961 it was a critical success in the USA and won the National Book Award in the following year. Interesting to note that Walker Percy won the award that year ahead of the other finalists which included Joseph Heller (Catch 22); J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey); Bernard Malumad (A New Life)and Richard Yates for Revolutionary Road. How the wheels of time turn!

But this is not a classic that time forgot. The novel also featured in the Time Magazine list of 100 best English Language novels and, judging by the number of reviews for the novel on the Amazon dot com site, it is obvious that it still receives attention from readers on the other side of the Atlantic'

I would suggest that 'The Moviegoer' deserves better attention here in the UK even though it's setting and maybe, just at the outer edges, some of the (mildly expressed) social and racial attitudes may now seem as though they are from another time and another place. No great surprise there. The novel is set amid the fading gentility of 1950's New Orleans and it is a very polite book

Binx Bolling is a veteran of the (forgotten) Korean War. He is an affluent young stockbroker from an upper class Southern family. His thirtieth birthday is approaching and Binx Bolling's great fear is `everydayness' and he finds some sense of heightened meaning in the movies and none-too-energetic lusting after his secretaries. All very politely done, of course, because Binx Bolling is certainly no great womaniser and he is mostly drawn to his manically depressive, self-harming cousin Kate - although even this is uncertain and laden with ennui.

For Binx Bolling most things are uncertain and lack meaning but this is not a tale of premature mid-life crisis, it is a tale of wistful and humorous melancholy. There are points in the novel when everything is something that might have been but if it actually became then it would be insubstantial and insufficient for this is a wryly told story of peculiarly American, peculiarly Southern, existential angst and it is told in the first person with a disarming good humour and barely a trace of malice.

In that sense, maybe Binx Bolling is like an older Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye so do not expect any great sweeping narrative or happenings here. `The Moviegoer' will not grab you by the throat but it will slowly seduce you. It is a novel of conversations illuminated by some jewels of description which conjure up the sense of that time in the fading and neglected elegance of the New Orleans area and some of the thoughts and feelings from the book will stay with you for longer than you expect.

A lovely gentle read that resonates with both intelligence and Southern charm.
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on 11 October 2011
The Moviegoer is a wonderful novel - gentle, yes, but profound also in a characteristically dreamy and oblique way. Many of Percy's characters feel a sort of sense of dislocation, an inability to connect with the world as they find it. When you add in the fact that the South of his day was obviously a very different place even from the rest of America, you get this feeling of being immersed in an entirely different sensibility. Many other novels show young men who have come back from the Army, who can't quite find their place in the world, but Percy does it in an very different way, enchanting and thought-provoking. This is perhaps his most beautifully composed novel, but I also recommend The Second Coming.
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on 6 December 2003
A classic example of Modern Fiction that comes out of the American South. More specifically, we are dealing with Delta fiction--the American Creole. Percy's romantic voice is infected by both his Catholic and medical school experiences. It is clear that these experiences make it difficult for him to remain a romantic. Nonetheless, I believe he triumphs.
He writes of the American rich and the American dream to be rich. He writes of the individual and for it. His other book, Lancelot, is worth a read--Moviegoer is far more superb.
A shame that Moviegoer is becoming forgotten. The book's 30 year old protaganist so easily speaks to the American 30 year old today. Escapist, philosophical, lean. Much better than a trip to the movies.
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on 20 March 2016
The Moviegoer is one of those books that receives four stars from me, even though my reading experience was only three stars; I enjoyed it in parts, but it was a bit of struggle to get to the end.

I sensed the greatness of the book and its existentialist ideas simmering just below the surface, but I only managed to connect to its high-minded thoughts and concepts at times – a few underlined sentences, a page of notes taken.

The book – which tells the story of a man in the New Orleans of the golden American Years after the Korea War and before Vietnam, when life was good and America was still God's Own Country, who tries to break out of the everydayness which has dulled or delighted (the hero is not sure which) all of his fellow citizens, and embarks on something he calls "the search" – a kind of existentialist exploration for the meaning of life (the book’s epigraph is by Kierkegaard).

All these ingredients combined with the fact that Walker Percy is considered one of America's main Catholic writers, made me want to read this book, yet, I never really managed to connect with it.

I can only speculate about the reasons why the book wasn't really for me. It may be that its setting in time and history was simply to removed from my own experience, or maybe the fact that I don't usually like books which treat serious matters in a light, sometimes even satirical tone. Or did I just not try hard enough? – I had to read the book in the wee hours as my days were too busy for slow and conscious reading.

Again, I can see how this book has become cult reading for some. I read that Terrence Malick wanted to bring it to screen, which for me, as a big Malick fan, means a lot, but nevertheless: I did not love the book. Even so, I recommend that everybody who's into existentialism and "the search" should give Walker Percy a try.
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on 25 November 2015
I had high hopes for this, but was very disappointed. Not much happens; it just ambles along. There are one or two nice passages, but generally I found it hard to engage in. I didn't care much about any of the characters, and in many cases I wasn't sure who they were, as they flit in and out of the narrative. It's often unclear who is speaking when there's dialogue. I didn't understand what the narrator was on about in his pontifications about life; he just came over as self-absorbed, which is maybe the point, but it makes for a very boring book. If there's some great revelatory message about life here it passed me by. One very long yawn.
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on 20 August 2014
I much anticipated this "neglected classic" novel, but what a let down - bad quirky, dull & rambling
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on 28 December 2015
Easy read and very interesting
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