Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Narrated Novel: THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy


Reginald Marsh


Does anyone write novels with almost no dialogue nowadays? And also one that stays almost exclusively in the protagonist's head.



Although it was a terrific novel, I doubt many writers could get away with this now. And it does make the story more static--you are always inside the protagonist's head and have to rely on his observations and take on almost everything. You have almost no insight into other characters because they so rarely get to speak. Another issue is that there is an almost casual racism in the book. By constantly telling us that this "nigra" was just like him, he gets away with it. Or did at the time.

This is probably the most existential novel I have read. The search for how to live a life with meaning is explored on every page.

Who does this today? Do you mind a novel written in this manner?

12 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Bought the first paperback of this book way back when. Loved it. I've read it many times since. Don't mind the manner of the writing in the least.

Deb said...

This is my husband's favorite novel of all time. I enjoy it--although not as much as he does. The interior monologue doesn't bother me. I think if you read a wide variety of novels from various eras you grow accustomed to different narrative styles. You are right, though, that this book would probably be a tough sell in today's market.

/Fun fact: The principal at one of our local high schools is Walker Percy's cousin.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for existential, try THREE TO KILL and THE PRONE GUNMAN by Jean-Patrick Manchette. I read them after hearing Lee Child mention him at the Baltimore Bouchercon (I think it was your panel, Patti) and they keep popping up in my head at odd times, as does (on a different subject) the movie version of A SINGLE MAN.

Jeff M.

JJ Stickney said...

I just re-read this last summer. Walker Percy was a wonderful fiction & essay writer. I thought the book really held up...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, yes A Single Man is a great example. I have to say this novel is haunting me perhaps because I listened to it and the reader's voice is in my head. He really pulled you into one man's world more than a lot of dialog and multiple POVS would have.

I read a lot of books by Percy in the day and he was always interesting.
I think THE PRONE GUNMAN sits somewhere on my shelves. Have to look for it.

Richard R. said...

I guess I need to get away from reading almost exclusively genre fiction and dip into more literate things once in a while.

Charles Gramlich said...

Considering how dialogue heavy so many books are these days I'd welcome a few of this type of story. It would be a relief.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Takes place in New Orleans too.

Anonymous said...

Patti, I was particularly pleased that Colin Firth won the Oscar this year because I thought he did a great job in A SINGLE MAN.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

He can do no wrong in my book.

Todd Mason said...

Barry Malzberg and Robert Silverberg (notably DYING INSIDE) as well as Saul Bellow can be as interior as this...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil reminded me of THE DANGLING MAN.