Louisiana


The Joy Theater
Photo of the Joy Theater by nycgeo used under a Creative Commons license.

Walker Percy, The Moviegoer (Vintage, 1998).
Percy won the National Book Award in 1962 for this, his first published novel. Binx Bolling, a veteran of the Korean War, lives in the (fictitious) suburb of Gentilly, in Feliciana Parish, and works as a stockbroker in New Orleans. He daydreams, and carries on with his secretaries, one after another. And he goes to the movies, which are more real and carry more meaning for him than the rest of his life. If this is isn’t depression, it’s surely ennui. The plot of the novel, such as it is, follows this anti-hero’s “search” for meaning.

Many internet sites offer free term papers; none of the following do. Robert Massie reviewed it in The New York Times in 1961. More recently, C. Max Magee reviewed it at The Millions. The New York Times‘ Reading Room blog recently had a two-week discussion of The Moviegoer, starting with this post. This link yields more of the posts, albeit in reverse chronological order. In the discussion, Julia Reed says the book is a “spot on” portrayal of New Orleans. Scott Esposito and Vidalia blog about it. Time picked it as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923 (?). Darren Hughes didn’t know what to do with himself after Hurricane Katrina so he sat down and read The Moviegoer. Steven Higgins says the book has been misinterpreted. And Brett Yates writes about Percy and his works.

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New Orleans
Photo by Mark H. Baker used under a Creative Commons license.

Rob Walker, Letters from New Orleans (Garrett County Press, 2005).
Shortly before January 1, 2000, Walker and his girlfriend moved to New Orleans, where they had not lived before. They stayed three years, during which Walker wrote about his new city in fourteen letters to family friends, gathered here. Walker says in an introductory note that he never thought they’d be published in this way, “[b]ut here they are.” Walker’s New Orleans is not the city most tourists visit – do not pick this book up to plan a weekend visit, but do pick it up. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, reading these pieces is coming home from a relative’s funeral to look at snapshots from the last family reunion. (The 2005 edition, which I read, was published before Katrina. A 2006 edition includes additional material.)

The publisher offers an excerpt. Google Books has excerpts, reviews, and more.
In 2000, Walker wrote this diary for Slate, later included in the book. Walker’s blog links to several interviews and reviews. Flak Magazine’s interview is worthy reading. And see these reviews from Colleen Mondor (Chin Music Press), Kate Sekules (The New York Times), Rick, Aj, and Quiet Bubble. If you’ve read all that and still want more, devote yourself to No Notes, a blog by Walker which, in his words, is a partial spinoff of the book. All sorts of good stuff is there. You can also check out MLK BLVD, an “open source” photo/journalism blog by Walker and others.

Buy this book at Amazon.com.