"Yet it was here in the Tivoli (theatre) that I first discovered place and time, tasted it like okra."
(Warning, I spoil the ending below...I couldn't help it.)
Listed as one of the Times 100 Best Novels [since 1923], The Moviegoer by Walker Percy is southern literature itself. Set in New Orleans after the Korean War, Binx Bolling is aimless and adrift despite his good standing as a successful young stock broker from a good family. Nearing his 30th birthday, Binx is on an existential journey he calls "the search" which constantly eludes him as he goes from happiness to malaise and back again. His frequent moviegoing and his list of secretaries temporarily suspends this malaise, but ultimately they get worn out by him and he by them. His familial relationships are complicated. Both his aunt and his mother prefer to view him as a latent genius made for a career in research but do not actually dig deeper. The one person he seems able to help is his aunt's stepdaughter Kate who veers between sanity and insanity and, he finds, is perhaps the only person who, by saving, he can save him.
The Moviegoer is very much a product of it's time and the voice, the descriptions, the behavior of the characters reminded me of movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Rear Window though more serious. Binx's journey is very much a selfish quest and a spiritual one--the search for something that will fulfill the longing he can only momentarily assuage with making money and sleeping with his secretaries. In the end, he sacrifices the search to help the person who most needs him, which, it could be argued is indeed the fulfillment of the search. This is a thought provoking story with elements of redemption that I think will continue to resonate in my mind. Plus, I love the diction and feel of books and movies from this time period--slow, desperate, and sometimes convoluted like listening to people from another English speaking country talk to each other in their own non-American way.