, published in 1960, is Walker Percy
's first novel. Winner of the 1961 National Book Award
, it received almost unanimous acclaim from every major literary critic
and established Percy
's reputation as one of America
's finest novelists
Set in New Orleans, The Moviegoer concerns the existential search of Binx Bolling, an astute, sensitive man lost amid the "everydayness" of the world and its inhabitants. Drowning in malaise and indifference, and beset by a permanent, low-grade depression, Binx struggles to make time pass, engaging in love trysts with his secretaries and watching movies, which seem to posses moments more substantial, more emotionally real, than anything in his life.
He decides to embark on "a search," but cannot even define its basic parameters; he suspects it has something to do with "the strangest fact of all": that if God did exist, and it were demonstrably proven, it would change nothing; "...all the signs in the world make no difference." He terms this bizarre quality of modern life "invincible apathy."
An existential, semiotically-inclined novel written with an awareness of post-structuralism and post-modernism, it is also hideously funny, and a phenomenal repository of excellent quotes which, with appalling humor, succinctly synopsize all of the problems of living in the modern world. It also addresses, with great insight, the effect that media has on the human mind, how it defines man by transforming him into an incessantly reflexive, anxiety-ridden caricature of himself.
It has been accurately described as "a life-changing novel," the sort which seems to articulate everything one has ever vaguely suspected with exquisite clarity, while rendering invalid all of one's previous beliefs. It is Walker Percy's most famous work, rightly or wrongly, and it confirms Percy's genius in its incredible profundity and humor.