Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review: The Moviegoer

Perhaps I was a bit premature in my review of The Thanatos Syndrome in suggesting I was starting to "get" Walker Percy. Reading this, his first, most appreciated novel (that won the National Book Award in 1962), I'd come across pages that were brilliant and pages that were opaque, and I attribute that to my own innocence in Southern literature, Southern place in the 60's, and Southern people. I don't really get those three things and so I don't always get Walker Percy. I'm sure he'd have something to say about that too!
The brilliant pages are just that, bringing together history, science, literature, psychology, place, all together in paragraphs that are too well-constructed to be quotable. Some very funny, light passages too. It seems Percy got less funny as he got older, and a little more straightforward in some ways. In other ways, he laid out his reasoning in this, his first book, and sort of assumes you're up to speed in the later books. Note to self: If author's first book won the National Book Award, consider reading it first, not next-to-last.
This novel's also a dark horse for being included in my biochem seminar some year. It does concern research, medical schools, man's place in the universe, etc., but really a minority of the material is directly relevant. But it would be fun to have an actual literature discussion in that biochem class.
I definitely will keep up on my "Percy project." Now that I've read a majority of his published output I'm getting to the point where I can go back and re-read some novels. But first, on to the definitive biography! I want to find out more about this writer. And sometimes he just plain cracks me up.
Surprising Walker Percy Wiki-tidbit: he was instrumental in getting one of my favorite novels, A Confederacy of Dunces, published. You know, I really need to read that again sometime too.


Juliet said...

The book that got me to read The Moviegoer (after reading one other Percy novel years before and thoroughly not getting it) was The Life You Save May Be Your Own, a sort of group biography of Percy, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. It was engrossing, and at the time I hadn't read more than a bit by any of them.

BenMc said...

You know, I can't think of a group that such a biography would be more helpful for! The South produced Catholic writers Percy and O'Connor, both of which I find much more interesting or more profound than any mainline/Protestant Southern (or Northern) American writers. At least that I can think of offhand!