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Posts Tagged ‘The Moviegoer’

Signpost in a Strange Land

October 21, 2013 | by


I’m worried about America. I’m worried about its bankrupt cities, its abandoned factories, and its intractable wars. I’m worried that the country faces “a crisis of confidence,” as Jimmy Carter declared in his famous “Malaise” speech, back in 1979. The recent shutdown of the federal government is just the latest indication that America has lost its “unity of purpose,” giving rise to “growing doubt about the meaning of [its citizens’] lives.” I love America—how can you not love the country that gave us jazz and barbecue and The Godfather Part II?—so I take no pleasure from these fatalistic musings. Instead, I find myself looking for comfort, and a sense of perspective, in a novel written half a century ago by another soul-searching Southerner. If Jimmy Carter gave America the “Malaise” speech, then Walker Percy wrote the book on it.

Published in 1961, The Moviegoer was Percy’s first and most widely praised novel, the highlight of a remarkable life in American letters that ended in 1990. His protagonist is a stockbroker in late-fifties New Orleans, a young man pursuing an interest in the movies and affairs with his secretaries, quietly dedicating himself to family and finance. But soon Binx Bolling finds himself on a “search” for a more authentic life, something that will measure and mark his existence against the passage of time. “The search,” he explains, “is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.” Over the course of a fateful Mardi Gras weekend, Binx comes face to face with the same specter that haunts the rubble of postcrash America: “the cold and fishy eye of the malaise.” Read More »


Did The Moviegoer Fix the NBAs? And Other News

November 5, 2012 | by

  • It was considered a huge upset when The Moviegoer beat out Catch-22, Revolutionary Road, and Franny and Zooey for the 1962 National Book Award. Slate asks: Was the fix in? And why?
  • Speaking of snubbing Richard Yates: “Each time Yates shuffled into Roads that summer, I avoided making eye contact. Why didn’t he get help, join AA?” Leslie Absher recounts her interactions with the author.
  • Books written from beyond the grave. Dead Mark Twain was especially prolific.
  • You may be dead before you finish these: a slideshow of those books most difficult to finish.
  • He apparently hated beards, and other trivia about Roald Dahl.
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    Magic Hour: An Interview with Gregory Crewdson

    September 27, 2012 | by

    Still from Beneath the Roses

    It’s difficult to quantify the strange magic of Gregory Crewdson’s photography, but here's a stab: his photos, mostly of American towns that could be any dead mill town (the colors too bright, the light too spooky) create such an evocative mood that the viewer becomes part of the story. His work has to the power to linger in the brain long after seeing it: on days when the light filters just so through the trees, when an average, mundane moment takes on the qualities of eerie, ethereal beauty, it’s very easy to identify it as a Gregory Crewdson moment, a particular alchemy of the earthbound and the spectral.

    The documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters is a beautiful and contemplative look at Crewdson’s process, focusing on when he was working on Beneath the Roses, a multiyear project that brought film crews of sixty or so people to small towns in the Berkshires of Massachusetts to help produce his large-format photos. The film, a ten-years-in-the-making work directed by Ben Shapiro, is an intimate look inside Crewdson’s artistic process. Since that’s covered in the documentary, I wanted to talk to Crewdson about one of his big inspirations, the cinema. Crewdson invited me to his studio and home in the Berkshires, a former church hidden behind a fence, where we (along with another writer, Stu Sherman) had a free-ranging conversation starting with the movies and edging over into his work. We started, of course, with Mad Men, which Crewdson calls “the greatest work of sustained art in the past ten years, and I’d include any movie or book or art work, so that shows you what I think of it.”

    When it comes to Mad Men, do you like the set design and period detail?

    I think it’s perfect in so many different ways, but it’s so beautiful to look at, so exquisitely detailed and rendered. The light’s so beautiful and the decor all fits together like a complete, perfect set piece.

    It’s funny that you love Mad Men so much. I have to admit that when I watch Breaking Bad—or even just seeing stills of characters, like of the wife, Skylar, on the bed—they’re very reminiscent to me of your work.

    My pictures are very much influenced by movies, but it’s weird because now it seems like the opposite happens, and now it’s like the movies use my pictures as reference. It’s a dialogue or something. I guess it just happens.

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