Kim's Reviews > The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
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's review
Aug 01, 09

bookshelves: cultured
Read in August, 2009

3.68 stars. 3.85 stars

So, my first jaunt into book club territory. What do I bust in with? The Power and the Glory. What an idiot I am.

I have to say that this is probably not a book that I would have picked if left to my own devices. My first introduction into Greene was The End of the Affair and that’s only because I’m a sucker for a good ‘woe is me’ story. Bitterness and anger to unknown deities? Rock on! But, put into this context - in this setting - I have to admit that I felt a bit lost.

Backtrack: My ‘experience’ with religion is this: Raised ‘catholic’ (read: baptismal based on criminality of original sin, catechism classes to become ‘confirmed’ so that I can get married in a church—of course I married a Jew at a duck pond, so, oops.) My knowledge of religion in general centers around lots of viewings of Last Temptation of Christ and an overbearing sense of guilt for all things.

So, I got the whole abandonment of God from Affair because who doesn’t want to lash out when they see their potential love life ruined by (unfounded) religious belief? Duh. Place me into the 1930’s Catholic Persecution in Mexico and watch me flounder.

That being said, this book isn’t difficult. I enjoyed Greene’s prose. Man, this guy could write. There are so many passages that I was dumbstruck by. So many wonderful observations made. I just couldn’t be empathetic. There were no characters that I grabbed onto and wanted to either shelter or strangle. I need that hook, I need to feel invested. The protagonist in the story, the ‘whiskey priest’ should be this character, but for some reason, I always felt he had an agenda. That even when he was supposed to be absolving himself of his sins, I never quite believed he meant it. He was in it for the (yep, here it comes) the power and the glory. But, I never hated him enough to care. Sure, there were scenes where I might feel anger or pity, but nothing strong enough to make a lasting impression and when his fate is doled out, I’m impassive.

Maybe it’s the fact that this is written in the 3rd person, that we don’t really see what is in the mind of these characters. They each have an important role to play and when these roles converge, the story is impeccable. I can’t find a fault in it. But, again, I can walk away from it.

So, this being Greene’s ‘greatest novel’ makes me (again) feel like a dolt. I should have more appreciation for the subject matter and the controversy and all that, but I need instant gratification. Life’s too short. I won’t continue to ramble on plot or characters as I think some of my peers in The Power and the Glory Group did an excellent job of reviewing but I did do some research on this book in hopes of raising it to a 4 star rating and what I came across that peaked my interest was how it was noted that this book parallels T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’ (which I’d never read before):

The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot
Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.




Good stuff.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Matt (new)

Matt ...read: baptismal based on criminality of original sin, catechism classes to become ‘confirmed’ so that I can get married in a church—of course I married a Jew at a duck pond, so, oops.

This line cracks me up. Thanks for the poem also.


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Yeah, it's a big hit in our household too... :)


message 3: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen I'm so glad you included the poem! I don't think that I had ever fully read it- only the last few lines, really. Wow.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Kim rocks


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim So intuitive, Maurice... :)


message 6: by Ben (last edited Aug 02, 2009 06:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben I just finished, Kim. I also gave it three stars...

But really, I liked it less than you, as mine was lower than 3.85 ; )


message 7: by Gary (new) - added it

Gary i love graham greene,and have read several of his books. not this one yet, it's collecting dust on the shelf as we speak. i will read it someday, but i m ust tell you my favorite book of his is THE QUIET AMERICAN!


message 8: by Gary (new) - added it

Gary WHOOPS. I POSTED BEFORE I INTENDED TO..... to continue. it's a great book,and somewhat different then his others. i have read it several times,and i got my bookclub to read it,and we all loved it too. we had quite a great discussion about it! and here's an added treat. you must read it first, then rent ,or purchase the movie with michael caine,and branden fraser. IT'S WONDERFUL! i bought it after renting it,and have watched it numerous times. be sure to watch the special features the history of the book,and how greene actually was in vietnam,and how one event that did actually happen used the same people that experienced it that starred in the reinactment for the movie!

there's an old movie version in black and white,and i've heard it's not that great or true to the book but this new version is a wonderful movie.

save your opinions for greene after you've read the book,and also watched the newer version movie.



message 9: by Gary (new) - added it

Gary again, part 3. i forgot to tell you that our bookclub enjoyed THE QUIET AMERICAN so much, that an older retired teacher in our group decided to vacation in vietnam,and she saw the hotel,and the street that's in the book, that's filmed in the movie, where the "big event" happened,and she stayed in the hotel where graham greene stayed while writing,and also, his room is a museum. she had asked to stay in it,and they told her no. but they let her see the room,and the man that showed it to her told her the history of it,and about greene.

it says a hell of a lot for a book when someone makes the book her vacation. and get this. a vietnamese person, a vendor was selling paperback copies of THE QUIET AMERICAN on the street,and she bought one! isn't that a hoot???


message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim I'll give that one a try, Gary. Thanks... I think I'm going to take a little break from him for a bit. I have 270 something books on my to read list and I promised my husband a Dos Passos read, so... But, I was reading up on Greene's life and I have to admit that that is why I've raised my rating... he was an interesting guy... :)


Matthieu Ha, I gave it 3.74 stars.


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kim Hatah.


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