Off the Shelf: Walker Percy’s ‘The Moviegoer’

Percy pb stack

Universally hailed as one of the great novels of the 20th century, Walker Percy’s National Book Award winning The Moviegoer is a Southern classic and a highly sought after collectible first edition. True firsts from its 1961 publication can run well into four figures. I have seen estimates of 1500-3000 copies printed, which isn’t surprising considering it was Percy’s first novel. I won’t be buying one any time soon.

Percy Moviegoer spine

My copy of The Moviegoer is a recent trade paperback, which was fine for reading last year. I’m always on the lookout to upgrade to a hardcover, of course (you can read about the upgrade process with Go, Down Moses).

Moviegoer coverAs book buying fate would have it, I came across an unexpected edition of The Moviegoer at a used bookshop while browsing through the leather books. Leather editions can be nice, particularly as eye candy on the shelf, but they generally aren’t collectible in the same way a first edition might be (personally, I find Folio Society editions more interesting than the leather bound Franklin Press). This Franklin Library edition was different, however, because it was signed by Walker Percy.

This is where your smartphone comes in handy as I did a quick search on the always useful (and also dangerous) Bookfinder.com. The bookstore price, while not cheap, was relatively inexpensive to the going price. I bit. The time to buy a signed Walker Percy is when you find a signed Walker Percy. I would never see one again at that price.

Percy signature

A little research shows that this was part of a series from Franklin called the Signed 60, which was issued between 1977-1982, and is one of the most sought after Franklin series. The volumes were not only beautifully bound and signed, but also were newly illustrated.

Moviegoer illustrationHow many were printed? I can’t imagine too many as they had to have an author’s signature for each one. There are only so many that Walker Percy is going to sit down and sign.

For someone who will never have the free cash to drop on a true first edition of The Moviegoer, this Signed 60 edition gives me a chance to own a beautiful and signed “first thus” edition. It’s worth checking to see if your favorite author or novel has a similar edition that might be much more accessible than an out of reach true first.

 

If you’re interested in Walker Percy, Rod Dreher is planning a Walker Percy Weekend in St. Francisville, Louisiana in 2014. Also see Dreher’s recent article on Walker Percy and place.

Moviegoer title page