Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blogging The Moviegoer: Ash Wednesday

It has always bothered me a little that The Moviegoer ends on what is not only Ash Wednesday, but Binx’s 30th birthday, too. The day is practically doubled over with the weight of meaning. The timing, I suppose, raises all sorts of questions about Binx and his search and his faith or lack of it, but I’m more interested in a simpler—and yes, dopier—question: What happens to Binx and Kate? They’re supposed to marry, and Binx is supposed to go to medical school and the plan is for them to “walk abroad on a summer night. . . and see a show and eat some oysters down on Magazine.” But, really?

I got a kind of answer when, a few years into my annual Moviegoer routine, I read another very good New Orleans novel, John Gregory Brown’s Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, from 1994. I was almost at the end of that novel when I came to something that just about knocked me out of my chair. A stockbroker-turned-doctor named Jack makes a brief appearance. Some things about Jack seem awfully familiar. Jack drives a tiny red sports car. Jack likes to go to the movies. Jack’s a Korean war veteran who once lived on Gentilly Boulevard. There's not much mystery about it. It’s Binx, of course. But there’s one more thing about Jack, and it’s the detail that made me sure of his identity. Brown says that he “had been married, but his wife had killed herself some years before.” I'm not sure I've ever been quite as stunned by a single sentence in a novel as I was by that one.

Odd as it was to come across Binx rendered older and sadder, and odd as it was to find Kate killed off, I had to give Brown credit. He was a Percyist, it was obvious, and he'd pulled off the best possible Moviegoer homage: to borrow Binx for his own novel. And better still--and sadder still--I think Brown gets him, and Kate, right.

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