The Moviegoer, Walker Percy, 1961
This is Walker Percy’s first novel, which won the U.S. National Book Award, when things like that still mattered, in 1961.
I admit I cheated in reading this. About one-third of the way through, I checked online to see what this was all about, because I was not liking this. It was unpleasant, not in the manner of horror, but that the main character, the narrator Jack “Binx” Bolling, is so unlikable, but in such an uninteresting way. You will be glad to know I was right in my assessment.
Bolling is on “the search” but he never makes clear what he is in search of, but he makes it amply clear that it is not for God. He is restless, bored, and terrorized by the prospect of malaise. His relations with other people are like in a dream or fog. He is alienated, or atomized, and can only have significant conversation with his depressive cousin, whom he eventually marries (it appears). He finds reality in movies, and if a place he knows shows up in a movie, it is “certified”, meaning real. William Holden makes an appearance on the streets of New Orleans and he is more real than reality to Bolling.
Bolling could have achieved something in scientific research–he is prodded about it often–but found his sweet spot in making money.
This is America. There are people who really like this book, who identify with it, and quote Bolling approvingly. These people are lost at sea.
I find it fascinating this came out in 1961, right at peak America. Percy, a Catholic, had it diagnosed. I hear his work added up to, “There is a way through this: Christianity.”