The Moviegoer
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The Moviegoer

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  13,088 ratings  ·  1,065 reviews
This elegantly written account of a young man's search for signs of purpose in the universe is one of the great existential texts of the postwar era and is really funny besides. Binx Bolling, inveterate cinemaphile, contemplative rake and man of the periphery, tries hedonism and tries doing the right thing, but ultimately finds redemption (or at least the prospect of it) b...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 1960)
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Chuck Lowry
This is my favorite novel of all time. It is the story of Binx Bolling, a successful, socially prominent New Orleans stockbroker from an old and wealthy family, and how he faces his life in the week of Carnival leading up to his thirtieth birthday on Ash Wednesday. Binx is an avid and successful skirtchaser, but he really loves his stepcousin Kate, a manic depressive. The book tells us that a life spent seeking happiness is almost doomed to failure, that happiness, both as a concept and as a rea...more
Jeffrey Keeten
“The fact is I am quite happy in a movie,even a bad movie...What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Wells in the doorway in the Third Man.”


Binx Bolling is floating through life. He survived the Korean War even came back with a good wound, a shoulder wound, that allowed him to leave the conflict with honor. He lives in Gentilly, a middle class suburb of New Orleans. He has a bo...more
All hail the Biblioracle, for his powers are immense. I realize that many of you will not be acquainted with this prophet of proper book choices. He writes a column for the Chicago Tribune’s weekly book review supplement. Aside from short essays on book-related topics (think pithier versions of chapters in Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris), he invites readers to submit their own five most recent selections from which he divines the next one that should go on the list. It’s a fun exercise for someone lik...more
I'm a sucker for books that employ existential musings in a way that feels genuine and unforced; thus, I greatly enjoyed The Moviegoer. It's an ambitious novel for one so slim--it skims many weighty topics, from hedonism (and his better-dressed twin, capitalism), to religion's place in America, to the nature of responsibility (and that of her incubus, apathy), to mental health and paranoia. There is even a nice riff on Salinger where Percy replaces Holden's "phonies" with those who are "dead" in...more
I come away from "The Moviegoer" with very mixed feelings. Walker Percy was a beautiful writer, and I found myself reading several passages more than once just to enjoy the language, but I think I may be too old, even at 35, to truly appreciate and connect with a novel driven almost completely by existential feelings. It's not that I never personally feel existential dread -- I do, far more often than I'd like -- but, for the most part, I got the reading of these types of novels out of my system...more
Aug 26, 2012 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: For those in the mood for a bit of the blues
Recommended to Mike by: Goodreads Group On the Southern Literary Trail
The Moviegoer: Walker Percy's Novel of "If That's All There Is"

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is--Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller


If Walker Percy's The Moviegoer ever hits the screen, I'm sure Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is" will be on the soundtrack. And, if Binx Bolling is there to see it, I wonder if he'll recognize himself.

Not in the mood for a little Cam...more
K.D. Absolutely
Oct 16, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Time 100 Best Novels, National Book Award 1962
John "Binx" Bolling will soon be turning 30. An ex-Korean war soldier, he is adrift. A lost soul searching for signs where to go, what to do with his life, or even what his existence means. He works in the office as a stockbroker sharing his office with his secretary, Sharon who he is secretly in love with. When he goes home, he busies himself reading his books (Arabia Deserta, Charterhouse of Pharma, The Prophet, etc) and seeing movies (The Ox-Bow Incident, It Happened One Night, Young Philadel...more
I couldn't get through this book. Percy writes a detailed and interesting setting, and a meandering narrator/main character.

But really, I think the same way about this as I do books like Emma-- As in, why do I care if rich idiots are sad about their affluent lifestyle that is free of any socio-economic or actual danger?

Oh, poor rich white middle-aged depressed man, who makes a lot of money, is breathlessly racist and sexist, and spends all his time manuvering to get his secretaries into bed.

Nothing like a boring book to put a damper on reading. I can't remember the exact day that I started this book, but it feels like forever ago. For a 200-some page book, it felt like a 1000 page book, and just dragged on for a long time. The main character Binx Bolling (who names their kid Binx?), is a well-to-do business man, who enjoys chasing women, seeing movies, and can't seem to find a purpose to his life. In the book, there's about five interesting events, six entertaining converstations,...more

I don't know what I was expecting, a nostalgic trip through the golden hours of cinema history, something along the lines of Truffaut or of the more recent Oscar laureate The Artist ? I didn't even pay attention to the year of publication (1961) or the setting (New Orleans). Mostly the impulse to pick it up came from a goodreads review full of great movie posters, and I was looking for something to validate my own obsession with the silver screen magic ( I had periods when I watched 2-3 movies...more
Mar 17, 2008 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone living in modernity
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Is the war over yet?

Jack Bolling is a soldier who comes from a long line of soldiers. Jack served in Korea, his dad died in World War II, other relatives served in World War I, some in the Civil War. The fiercest warrior of them all is Jack’s Aunt Emily. She’s single womanly upholding Southern Tradition and all she has to work with is Jack. Sadly Jack is still fighting his war in his mind and heart even as he successfully makes money, chases women and of course prowls movie theaters. He’s damage...more
Aug 16, 2007 Mike rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fancy Lads
In the running for the 1962 National Book Award -

Joseph Heller for Catch 22
Richard Yates for Revolutionary Road
J.D. Salinger for Franny & Zooey

Somehow, Walker Percy's The Moviegoer won. So, I read it.

I guess it kind of redeems itself towards the end, but for much of the first 100 pages or so, it was filled with sickening Southern witticisms and references to by-gone nonsense. Too much about the "malaise" and the "genie-soul" - which means what exactly?

And, what kind of grandiose shit is this...more
Binx Bolling.

He's the most boring man alive
He finds all he needs in a movie theater.
Driving cars gives him a feeling of malaise.
He carries war scars, he doesn't share.
He awakes 'in the grip of everydayness' it's the enemy, with no escape.
He doesn't always go to the movies, but when does he goes as a moviegoer.
He is the most boring man alive.

A first person narrative, told through the eyes of an ordinary man a moviegoer.
He works and in his spare time goes to movies soley or with women.
He talks of his searching, for that something else in life and he has long talks with his aunt, she's wise and gives him the advice he needs.
This is set in the town of Gentilly, an annual Carnival is to take place while all this soul searching of the main character occurs.
I found it at times humorous, here and there it did lull a bit, it is a slow burne...more
Binx Bolling, è colpa mia o è colpa del tuo autore?

Io sono una di quelle a cui basta poco per essere convinta della scelta. E in questo caso il pacchetto era piuttosto invitante: un titolo accattivante e con rimandi alla mia persona talmente evidenti che non li potevo ignorare, un'offerta praticamente gratuita, visto che il libro era della biblioteca, e un depliant accattivante: rimandi allo Straniero di Camus, una certa Ricerca che il protagonista compie, un senso di alienazione, la sua passion...more

So many writers distrust words, so many artists distrust images and ideas, that they turn the stuff of their material against itself. As the protagonist of The Moviegoer says, ‘the only sign is that all signs in the world make no difference.’ Not that one should look to Binx Boller as a profound philosopher, of course, for he is a plaything of the author, a character made of words, albeit one who recognises that much thought, vocalisation and action is a responsive twitch. The characters herein...more
Sylvain Reynard
This is one of those novels that I think everyone should read. I don't expect everyone to like it, but it's interesting enough to provoke discussions and further thought.

It's a story about redemption, situated in the American South.

One of my favourite works in American literature.
Larry Bassett
This book made me smile almost immediately. What is understated humor? For me it is just the casually humorous way that a character in a book thinks or talks or goes about life. No loud guffaws. No uncontrolled snorts. No immature giggles. Just a nice tepid smile in your soul. If someone was watching you, they might notice just a slight upturn at the corners of your lips or a glint in your eyes or maybe they would notice nothing.

At first glance our protagonist Binx seems to be a bit of a serial...more
This novel proved to be different than expected in spite of the reviews I'd read prior to picking up the book. It is so introspective and has very little to do objectively with the world of film. But it has a lot to do with movies. One quote near the end seemed to sum up that conundrum for me. As Binx describes a man met on the bus returning to New Orleans, the man he has labeled "the romantic", "He is a moviegoer, though of course he does not go to movies."

For me, this summed up Binx and his pl...more
It's probably not worth mentioning, because the book hits upon it quite directly many times, but in the interest of mentioning something, anything, at all, of saying something even if it does not need to be said, I will point it out anyway: this book is about trying to feel alive amidst the everydayness of it all; or should that be e-ve-ry-day-ness, the word expounded in a tired, bored manner.

It seems to me a precursor to postmodern novelists like Pynchon and DeLillo, in its emphasis on the fict...more
Considering how long it took me to finish such a relatively slim book it should be readily apparent that I found something lacking in this. It was one of those books that I enjoyed to a certain extent while actually in the process of reading, but for some reason I never was able to figure out I never felt compelled to pick it back up once I put it down (which is always an unfortunate situation). And to be honest, I could tell almost immediately this just wasn't my thing, so I feel kind of bad fo...more
Greg Schell
I don't love this book, I merely like it. I chose to read it because it features among the Modern Library list of Top 100 novels.

The way I've always figured it there are 3 kinds of good writers. Those that are good storytellers, those that are good writers and those that are both. And, of course, those writers that are both are actually great writers.

This book shows Walker Percy to be a good writer, but he falls short in the storytelling department. I love the way he writes, especially the way...more
I LOVED it! This book really seems kin to me or something, on some level. But there is so much there, it feels like an idea driven book, but not in an impersonal abstract way, which is what is remarkable about it. I felt very connected. I don't know if I understand a lot of it, but I feel it anyway. There were many passages that I just wanted to copy and save somewhere that was easily accessible so I could read it over and over again, for the language and the ideas, both. And parts of it were so...more
I went back to read the chapter I most loved, and… and… oh. Me with my polyamorous (see, I’ve been reading Nabokov too) compulsion of having so many books open at one time had inserted Breece Pancake’s story “In The Dry” right into the narrative line, Ottie for Jack, Sheila for Kate.*

So, can I still thoroughly enjoy a novel where the best part of it wasn’t even a part of it at all? Yes, and for the lines like this that do belong to it: “Nobody but a Southerner knows the wrenching rinsing sadness...more
This is one of my top three favorite novels, perhaps number one. I've read it three times. The first time I liked it very much. The second, it was still good, but I think I enjoyed it most on the third read, probably because the characters, language, and themes still held my interest but I was better able to appreciate the structure of the novel.

This novel is not what I would call "plot-driven", but rather it is "theme-driven". If you only like page-turners with exciting plots, this is not the n...more
Immediately after the novel's dedication is this quote from Soren Kierkegaard, which pretty much says it all: "...the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair." In The Moviegoer, we have a hero about to reach the age of thirty, one Binx Bolling, who is, to say the least, wishy-washy. He serially falls in love with his secretaries, is bullied by his aunt and constantly dragooned by her into family affairs, and liking but being more than a little apprehensive...more
John Pappas
I couldn't help seeing this book in the light of two other novels, one distinctly American and one American by stylistic proxy (vis a vis Chandler and Hammett) -- the first being The Great Gatsby, and the second being Camus' L'Etranger. The resonances are profound, but refracted in interesting ways. The protagonist, Binx Bolling, is a bemusedly adrift stockbroker, who longs to be released from the "everydayness" of his life and hopes for some form of powerful (albeit ambiguously delivered) spiri...more
The plot of The Moviegoer is disarmingly straight-forward, taking for its thread the ups and downs of an affluent young seducer in New Orleans. The writing is direct, often in present tense, and concise without seeming clipped or rushed. The narrator’s eyes are particularly drawn to the “juicy-parts” of his story; he coughs up all the nitty-gritty details that old gossips die to hear, but he is mum about those prudish consequences, which most everyone else in his world is so hell-bent to prove e...more
Before I read 'the Moviegoer' my only real exposure to Walker Percy was reading A Confederacy of Dunces (a novel not written by Percy, but one which he discovered, published and wrote the forward to) and through his friendship with Shelby Foote. Anyway, fifty pages into 'the Moviegoer', I was ready to declare my undying love for Walker Percy. 'The Moviegoer' reminded me of a southern Catholic Graham Greene + F. Scott Fitzgerald + William Gaddis. With Greene's Catholic ambiguity and Fitzgerald's...more
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Walker Percy (1916–1990) was one of the most prominent American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he was the oldest of three brothers in an established Southern family that contained both a Civil War hero and a US senator. Acclaimed for his poetic style and moving depictions of the alienation of modern American culture, Percy was the bestselling author of six fiction t...more
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“Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.” 64 likes
“They all think any minute I'm going to commit suicide. What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I'm as cheerful as a nitwit. But if I could not kill myself -- ah then, I would. I can do without nembutal or murder mysteries but not without suicide. ” 39 likes
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