Betty Duffy

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I'm guest-blogging today at the Korrektiv Press Blog on the subject of Walker Percy's novel "The Moviegoer." Subject: "The Moviegoer" in the Internet Age. Percy fans will also find at the Korrektiv blog guest posts on Percy by people who are infinitely smarter and more qualified to comment on the book than I am.

What's all the fuss about "The Moviegoer?" It's the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication, which won The National Book Award in 1962. Aside from all that, it is one of only three novels ever published that I have read not once, not twice, but three times. It's that rich and worth my time ("Anna Karenina" and "Pride and Prejudice" are the other two).

The book is about a suburban stock-broker, Binx Bolling, who embarks on "the search" for a way to get out of the everydayness and malaise of his life. Binx is a selfish person, who loves watching movies, making money and flirting with pretty women. Yet, his identity is divided between his father's family, which is wealthy, cultured, and non-religious, and his mother's family, which is working-class and devoutly Catholic.

Here's a snippet from a scene near the end of the book when Binx sees a man exiting a Church on Ash Wednesday. I think it exemplifies the fruits of the search, and nearly every endeavor that's worth taking on:

"When he gets in his Mercury, he does not leave immediately but sits looking down at something in the seat beside him....I watch him closely in the rear-view mirror. It is impossible to say why he is here. Is it part and parcel of the complex business of coming up in the world? Or is it because he believes that God himself is present here at the corner of Elysian Fields and Bons Enfants? Or is he here for both reasons: through some dim dazzling trick of grace, coming for the one and receiving the other as God's own importunate bonus?

It is impossible to say."


Barb said...

You haven't read The Lord of the Rings more than once?

And I bet you have read "Goodnight Moon" or some other children's books many times. :-)

BettyDuffy said...

Don't faint now, Barb, and I might get excommunicated for saying this, but I haven't read The Lord of the Rings, not even once. I lack the imagination for fantasy genre books. I've tried it--The Hobbit, anyway, several times and cannot stay with it. I even bought myself an anthology of "the best" fantasy writing of the century to see if it was just Tolkien that was my hang-up--but alas, it's the whole kit and caboodle. The Narnia books are the same for me. I spent a good portion of my childhood feeling defective because I didn't like those books.

I did, however, enjoy the movies--from the weird hobbit cartoons to the Peter Jackson trilogy.

Oh, the irony.

Christy said...

Another book on my must read list Betty! I loved reading your review! As usual such great connections. I'll get back to you when I read it and it changes my life!

BettyDuffy said...

A caveat, Christy: The first time I read it--I did. not. get. it. I kept looking for a plot, and while there is some mild plotting, you really just have to sort of enjoy spending time with Binx, going on the search with him, following his trains of thought as he does whatever it is that he does. If you can do that, there are many delights to be found.

Darwin said...

Don't faint now, Barb, and I might get excommunicated for saying this, but I haven't read The Lord of the Rings, not even once.

What the Deuce?

BettyDuffy said...


Matthew Lickona said...

Out of your league? Nonsense.