Like a Slow-Release Drug

Patrick at Plastic Beatitude turned me on to another fine essay, this one by Jim Santel at The Millions, in observance of 50th Anniversary of The Moviegoer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought “the purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader’s mind.” Other than Fitzgerald’s own works, I’ve never read a novel whose power lies so fully not in the course of being read, but in the astral glow of having been read. When I completed The Moviegoer for the first time, I was at a loss to explain the significance of the 242 pages I’d just traversed, but I knew they had been important. I felt the novel working on me in strange ways, like a slow-release drug. That so much of The Moviegoer’s effect is felt when it’s not being read can be attributed not to some defect in Percy’s prose, but rather to the nature of the novel’s moral project. Read more …

Santel seems to be grokking something John Desmond touched on here as well.


  1. Thanks for the article. I’ll have a look at Percy’s Message in a Bottle, which I remembered reading this.

    And I might look at Plato after Adam Smith.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OPL says

    I just finished ‘The Moviegoer’ last week, my first Percy novel yet. (I read most of ‘Lost in the Cosmos’ a few years back, and some of Percy’s interviews.)

    If anyone can recommend an order in which to read the rest of the good doctor’s novels — and, for that matter, whether any deserve to be skipped — I’d be grateful.

    • Jonathan Potter says

      I read Lost in the Cosmos first, too. Then I read The Message in the Bottle. Then I read the novels in chronological order. Then the interviews. Then everything over again. Then Sign Posts in a Strange Land. Then the biographies. Then the Foote letters, then the Thief of Peirce. That’s not a bad approach. I think you’re on the right track. Go for The Last Gentleman next and then just keep going.

  3. Jonathan Webb says

    Potter is presenting (not rear-ward) at the next Moviegoer conference along with a host of others.

  4. Thanks for the link! I’m glad you enjoyed the essay.

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