The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

October 18th, 2008 at 6:59 am

Does anyone still read Walker Percy?

I don’t know. But I doubt it.

Well. Not anyone. Because I read The Moviegoer.

But The Moviegoer, winner of a National Book Award, was published in 1961. Has anyone read it since?

I did. And I found it to be mostly unremarkable.

And as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Michael Dirda, quotes Jack Green in the book Book by Book, “Recognizing masterpieces is the job of the critic, not writing competent reviews of the unimportant,” I don’t have much to say about The Moviegoer. A masterpiece The Moviegoer is not.

But then again, in Book by Book Michael Dirda also quotes Eeyore: “This writing business, pencils and what-not. Overrated if you ask me.”

So The Moviegoer. You do not need me to tell you what it’s about. For that, dear Reader, there is the Internet. I am not John McCain and I will insult you no further. You, having found yourself here, are clearly a decent, intelligent person and I thank you for being for The Cause. In lieu of gifts, The Cause asks that you buy the Authwhore drinks.

But I did find two particular passages in The Moviegoer to be of note:

1. This short passage from our protagonist, a stockbroker:

“It is not all bad being a businessman. There is a spirit of trust and cooperation here. Everyone jokes about such things, but if businessmen were not trusting of each other and could not set their great projects going on credit, the country would collapse tomorrow and be no better off than Saudi Arabia.”

Did I mention that this book was published in 1961?

2. This rather longish passage from our stockbroker protagonist:

“Now is the     thirty-first year of my dark pilgrimage on this earth and knowing less than I ever knew before, having learned only to recognize merde when I see it, having inherited no more from my father than a good nose for merde, for every species of shit that flies – my only talent – smelling merde from every     quarter, living in fact in the very century of merde, the great shithouse of scientific humanism where needs are satisfied, everyone becomes an anyone, a warm and creative person, and prospers like a dung beetle, and one     hundred percent of people are humanists and ninety-eight percent believe in God, and men are dead, dead, dead; and the malaise has settled like a fallout and what people really fear is not that the bomb will fall but that the bomb will not fall – on this my thirtieth birthday, I know nothing and there is nothing to do but fall prey to desire.”

Did I mention that this book was published in 1961?

Everyone start reading Walker Percy.

The Moviegoer is a masterpiece.

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