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The Moviegoer

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  24,607 ratings  ·  1,999 reviews
The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback. The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published April 14th 1998 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1961)
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Cora I think he recognizes in this man another soul who is aware of the search and the need to escape the malaise. Binx attempts this through movies, while…moreI think he recognizes in this man another soul who is aware of the search and the need to escape the malaise. Binx attempts this through movies, while this other man through books. (less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  24,607 ratings  ·  1,999 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 and was fortunate enough to come 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 o
Chuck Lowry
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
**This review contains spoilers**

New Orleans, 1960's. Jack "Binx" Bolling is 30, comes from a well off background, makes his money as a stock broker, and likes girls, and oh yes, he likes going to movies....a lot. But Binx is not happy, he is stuck, going without direction, without purpose; problem is, he doesn't know where to go, what to do next. His distant cousin, Kate Cutrer, he can relate to. She is also stuck, mainly because she suffers severe psychological issues. There is a connection wi
Sep 17, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shitty, shitty book. With no plot & worse, no climax, whatsoever. Just...pretty megabaffling! ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned-bad
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.

Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: For those in the mood for a bit of the blues
Recommended to Lawyer 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 Camu
Existentialism Down South, Ma'am

New Orleans is both intimately related to the South and yet in a real sense cut adrift not only from the South but the rest of Louisiana.... A proper enough American city and yet within a... few hours the tourist is apt to see more nuns and naked women than he ever saw before. Walker Percy

In this Percy quote, he so aptly captures the essence of this city below sea level, affectionately known as The Big Easy.

Walker Percy was awarded the National Book Award for thi
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
EDIT: today, this statue of Walker was placed near the river where we kayak. It is also the annual weekend of his memorial literary fest in St Francisville. I feel lucky to live where we do.

Novelist Walker Percy appears in Covington's Bogue Falaya Park

Beautiful sentiments by the sculptor - he was actually friends with Percy...


Walker Percy lived about six miles from my house, so it was obviously a joy to
May 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
Megan Baxter
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Let me preface this by saying that I'm quite sure that nothing in this review will come close to equalling the great one Jeffrey Keeten did, which I am purposely not rereading until after I write this, as it will intimidate the heck out of me.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Oct 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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? -
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was a junior in high school, my favorite English teacher told us about Walker Percy. He lived across Lake Pontchartrain, she said, and she made him sound like a reclusive eccentric. He had a new book out, she told us, called Lancelot and highly recommended his Love in the Ruins. We didn't read him in class, but I heard enough about him to be intrigued and I read him on my own. Though my teacher had introduced me to him, I felt like he was my own discovery.

I don't remember the first time I
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

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
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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.

Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1961. Time Magazine also put the novel on its list of 100 best English language novels from 1923-2005.

Today is my thirtieth birthday and I sit on the ocean wave in the schoolyard and wait for Kate and think of nothing. Now in the thirty-first year of my dark pilgrimage on this earth and knowing less than I ever knew before, having only to recognize merde when I see it, having inherited no more from my father than a good no
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Binx Bolling is a man in search of meaning. His life doesn’t seem to have much meaning; he goes to movies and engages in sex with a string of vacuous young women who occupy the front office secretarial position in his office. He doesn’t seem to belong to anything or anyone, but then we find he has a family and that his life is not unentangled, it is possibly too deeply entangled. There is no shortage of persons to tell him who he is, or at least who he ought to be, only a shortage of people who ...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
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
For me, this was the quintessential tale of two halves. For the first 100 pages, I was slogging through these people's lives - bored, not liking or disliking a single character, completely uninvested. A 29-year-old existentialist, a 25-year-old manic depressive, a 32-year-old frat boy turned lawyer, a well-meaning but interfering matriarch. And then . . . boom, it all started to click. A magic wand of meaningfulness waved over the final half of the book. This was my first experience with Mr. Per ...more
Diane Barnes
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how much I would like this book when I started, but by the final page I loved it so much I'm going to have to put it on my re-read shelf. This book contains a lot in it's 240 pages: family love and responsibility, class systems in the south, subtle racism, feelings of despair and elation, and the search for meaning in one's life. There is also a lot of wisdom and AHA moments for the reader, written in elegant prose.
Two of my favorite sentences:
"Life goes on and on we go."
"Ours is
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone living in modernity
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ever since finishing Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer I’ve been struggling to write some kind of review. Not even a good review, just something which expresses what I think about the book. What is so difficult about this book?

The Moviegoer has been called an existential novel and it won the prestigious National Book Award for 1962 beating out other better known contenders for that year such as, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey

As an existential novel, The Moviegoer, has

The ending is one of the best I've ever read, and there are splendid passages here and there but Binx Bolling is just an annoying, myopic, self-obsessed, rueful little twerp...
Joy D
It’s hard to get terribly excited about a book where the main character, John Bickerson “Binx” Bolling, talks about malaise throughout the book. Binx is 29 and lives in a basement apartment in Gentilly, a suburb of New Orleans. His main activities are working as a stockbroker, going to the movies, and pursuing his secretaries for sex. The writing is strong, but the book follows a character who can only be briefly satisfied, then sinks back into a morass of malaise. He is constantly searching for ...more
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joe Hilley
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Awakened this morning a little before five - couldn't get back to sleep - so, I went downstairs, made coffee, and finished reading The Moviegoer - the novel by Walker Percy, which I began reading a few days ago.

The Moviegoer is usually described as a philosophical novel - sometimes as a stream of consciousness novel - I prefer the phrase "contemplative fiction." Its about the quest for purpose and meaning and the angst that goes with that search. Sort of a Southern fiction version of Waiting For
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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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