It is a Topsy Turvy World


Walker Percy

Old Bucklaw isn’t in much of a mood to write tonight, but seeing that last night was a missed post and tonight is dangerously close to becoming one, I thought I should write something.   The point of this blog, after all, is to write something and this year I planned big things for myself.  But perhaps that’s the issue…sometimes everything feels like big things are happening, all is going so beautifully well, and then you have reason to wonder…

I am feeling a little Binx Bolling, perhaps.  Of course you know Binx, the protagonist of Walker Percy‘s excellent book, The Moviegoer (1961).  If you don’t know Binx Bolling, you have an assignment:  Read The Moviegoer and report back to me.  But for now, back again to my post.

Binx suffers from what he calls the malaise, an uncertainty about his place and purpose.  Outwardly it would seem that things come together well for Binx.  He comes from an established New Orleans family, has a decent job, gets out and about, and so on.  Why should Binx be caught up in an existential “search” to sort out his malaise?

Walker Percy might give us an overly-simple reading of existential doubt, but in essence Binx ponders his own place and purpose by mulling over the lives of family, friends, and girlfriends; he sees himself by reflecting upon others.

This in itself might make for a rather dull story, but if I recall correctly, Binx makes a point of comparing real experience with the fake experience of film.  When you see your city — New Orleans, for example — in a film, you can enjoy it as if you were there, in that film experience, rather than wandering the real thing in lived experience.  But of course one is real and the other really real.  Crossing this divide of authenticity is something Binx is struggling to achieve, at least I believe so.

(Perhaps I shouldn’t write about a book I haven’t read in a few years, but be relieved, I was going to critique a play I haven’t yet seen.)

The Moviegoer is a brilliant book because it tells the story of a young man with a strong foundation who is still somehow adrift.  He has roots, but still wanders.  In this way, I think the story also tells the story of the American South very well.  The foundations of the South, especially after World War II, still have substantial depth, but at the same time those foundations are being uprooted.  Binx’s wanderings to find himself as a young man in an adult world isn’t unlike the new South struggling with a modern American identity.  As if to emphasize this point, Binx takes a trip to Chicago and upon his return is confronted by his aunt, who stands for an even more traditional link to the past.

So why am I feeling all Binxy?

Perhaps there is something happening that tells me I am surrounded by very good things coming into my life, but like Binx, when they seem to feel sure and right, it is hard to discern fact from fiction, it is hard to make them true.  There is a struggle to make it all happen.  It eludes me, confronts me, and even doubts me.

A convincing analogy in the form of a relationship explains this quite well in The Moviegoer.  Binx relies a lot on his complicated — perhaps unstable — cousin Kate to help him sort things out.  She isn’t properly a foil — both Binx and Kate are unsure and restless — but she is more properly a compliment.

We all need our compliments, and even though they are hard to find, one should not try too hard.  A real compliment will settle in as naturally as a peaceful sleep in a lover’s embrace.  I want to believe it is that simple and that easy.   Why shouldn’t it be?  Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith more so than trust to let good things happen…

So what would Binx do?  He would find a beautiful young secretary and go for a drive along the gulf coast, I suppose…

Or was that Ignatius Reilly?  No, no…we don’t want Ignatius’s end.  We want Binx.  It was Binx.  Good old Binx.  He figured it out.



One thought on “It is a Topsy Turvy World

  1. V. Lyn

    Well I have as you say ” A real compliment will settle in as naturally as a peaceful sleep in a lover’s embrace.” you are a brilliant writer.


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