Walker Percy has few rivals in his ability to capture the poignancy of those freeze frame moments in life that inspire the deepest of nostalgia. Percy’s backdrop is the beautiful American South, and his writing of it profoundly rattled my soul.
The Moviegoer’s Binx Bolling seeks to create a reality comprising of these moments of exhilaration and beauty to combat his continual dalliance with malaise and despair at the everydayness of life. His obsession with movies and moviegoing is his means of achieving this goal, but he admits that even in the movies the characters tend to “settle down with a vengeance” once they address the upheaval that gave the film a plot. Nevertheless, Binx manages to pinpoint the beauty in seemingly mundane episodes of life, and Percy engages all your senses in his rendering of these instances.
Percy creates a cast of characters that aptly captures the South as it transitioned from its lingering idealization of the antebellum to its more modern iteration. The indomitable Aunt Emily symbolizes the old South, but in her you can see any number of well-meaning members of an older generation who think only they can see the clear path for the younger generation whose vision is clouded by orneriness. Emily’s step-daughter, Kate Cutrer, is an Awakening-type character at odds with the expectations thrust upon her as a well-off female in mid-20th century New Orleans. Binx keenly observes these characters, and others, with fondness tinged with frustration at what he sees as their obvious trajectories into the malaise of monotony.
Ultimately Binx has to come to terms with the everydayness of his own life, compelled by his need to tend to the troubled people he loves. His ability to do so with some grace and humor prevents this existential tome from resolving too darkly.