Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred that one bears for the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world that is upsidedown: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.
Yeats said something similar in “The Second Coming.”
Binx Bolling, an eschatologically troubled Korean War vet, is the sardonic voice of “The Moviegoer,” the 1960 novel by Walker Percy (1916-1990). The setting is mid-twentieth-century New Orleans. The quote is a miniature set piece in which Binx registers his grimly idiosyncratic take on the world. In a certain light it prefigures Twitter.
Binx first reads a liberal weekly, nodding to himself “whenever the writer scores a point. Damn right, old son, I say, jerking my chair in approval. Pour it on them.”
Then he picks up a conservative monthly “to join the counterattack. Oh ho, say I, and hold fast to the chair arm: that one did it. Eviscerated!”
He ends his reading session contentedly: “And then out and away into the sunlight, my neck prickling with satisfaction.”
What’s downright venusian from the perspective of our side-taking moment is Binx’s disengaged savoring of contumely from a perch in the DMZ.
(c) 2020 JMN