Graham Greene discussion


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message 1: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 41 comments FYI, I had a bad day and deleted my Goodreads account, so my previous comments are listed under "deleted member." Decided life would be less interesting if I couldn't check in with this group every few days, so I re-registered.

message 2: by Gary (new)

Gary | 22 comments Glad you're back, Kathleen! You would have been missed!
Unfortunately some people on here get pretty ruthless,and mean, however, even when I've considered deleteing my acccount, someone comes along,and says, "don't go , gary!",and i really do enjoy the discussion on here from "most" people. so, welcome back!

message 3: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 41 comments Thanks, Gary.

message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
Kathleen, I'm so glad you're back! I think sometimes we need a break from gr, I know I often do... we'd miss you sorely in this group, so I do hope you decide to stay now.

message 5: by Jessica (last edited Mar 21, 2010 09:26AM) (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
besides, we haven't gotten our fill of your thoughts on Muriel Spark, not to mention more about Greene... (!)

message 6: by Ben (last edited Mar 22, 2010 07:19AM) (new)

Ben | 34 comments Nice to have you back, Kathleen. And I know what you mean. Life is hard and sometimes it can feel like GR adds to the stress.

message 7: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 41 comments Thanks, Jessica and Ben.

message 8: by Greenelander (new)

Greenelander | 59 comments I second Message 5, Kathleen.

message 9: by Helen (new)

Helen (HelenMarylesShankman) | 245 comments Mod
Hey, Kathleen--

"When we are not sure, we are alive."
— Graham Greene

Thanks for coming back.

message 10: by Kathleen (last edited Mar 22, 2010 05:16PM) (new)

Kathleen | 41 comments Thanks so much, Greenelander, Helen, and GG. Helen, where did Greene say/write that? It's a great one.

message 11: by Helen (new)

Helen (HelenMarylesShankman) | 245 comments Mod
I think it's in "The Quiet American." It is great, isn't it? I find it strangely reassuring.

message 12: by Greenelander (new)

Greenelander | 59 comments I like it. It reminds me of Descartes---perhaps "Dubito ergo sum"? heh

message 13: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 41 comments Yes!

message 14: by Gary (new)

Gary | 22 comments I really love THE QUIET AMERICAN. i really truly do!

message 15: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
Was reading this Guardian article, "Experience enriches fiction but it doesn't reward authors," and was surprised to see Graham Greene quoted (the author met him as an 18-yr-old):

message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
The author writes (Greene's contention is that we have nothing to say until we are at least 40):

"However – I return to the point I've made before. On the whole, good and great fiction is not written by beautiful people who feel successful. It's written by the person who is most overlooked, all their life, and who understands things about the human condition which is very different from that of the experience of the 25-year-old part-time model. Every author has a professional deformity – club feet, an uncomfortable religious inheritance, short stature, or incurable alcoholism, take your pick. A writer is always an outsider, who has much less in common with a photogenic celebrity than with a bag-lady who rootles through bins muttering to herself."

message 17: by Helen (last edited Feb 04, 2011 08:01AM) (new)

Helen (HelenMarylesShankman) | 245 comments Mod
Beautifully said, though I am, of course, a 25-year-old part-time model.

message 18: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 39 comments Jessica wrote: "The author writes (Greene's contention is that we have nothing to say until we are at least 40):

"However – I return to the point I've made before. On the whole, good and great fiction is not writ..."

I really liked the link and the last line you quoted. I wonder if the same could be said for others in the arts.

message 19: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
perhaps...but does any other art get so close to describing the human condition?
film, maybe?

Helen: ha!
moi aussi.

message 20: by J (new)

J | 4 comments Great article, Jessica. (I'm a part-time twenty-five year old.)

message 21: by J (new)

J | 4 comments Film and opera come to mind, but they begin as written words also. I think painting, photography, and music more often give us a snapshot of time, place, emotion, ourselves... Do you think that's true?

message 22: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
yes, I think that's true.

I think it's the interiority of writing, its ability to get at/follow/present consciousness that differentiates it (think of a novel vs. film...if it's one filled with inner monologue...well, it's difficult to transfer to the screen).

message 23: by Sketchbook (last edited Feb 04, 2011 11:26AM) (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Very interesting discussion. I've had many (friendly) arguments with art (painting, photog etc) chums on how those 'areas' dont require interiority at all, which is why a painter-sculptor can work w radio going, people chattering...Once the concept is decided upon it's "physical" skill to execute it. A writer must always work 'alone' -- in the dark, as it were. In a newspaper office you get used to writing amid a hubbub, but jlism is carpentry, putting together x and y (facts) to build a story of 1,500 wds.

message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
yeah, I can never write to music or radio...but I know that there are some writers who do.

Still, I'd never quite thought of it like that, had assumed it was mostly me: I need to hear the inner voice, etc. Interesting point.

message 25: by J (new)

J | 4 comments I prefer to write in silence, but when I paint I turn the music up loud and sing. Sort of jamming my own frequency. A good friend of mine always painted with Jerry Springer or some other sensational noise in the background.

message 26: by Greenelander (new)

Greenelander | 59 comments I don't want to start a new thread, so maybe I'll just put this here: has anyone seen or does anyone have Graham Greene Country by Paul Hogarth?

Hogarth did the pen-and-ink illustrations on some of the Penguin covers. If so, can you comment---is it worth seeking out? Here's a cover pic---it looks very nice

message 27: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
wow, that does like nice.

I'd never heard of it til now.

message 28: by Greenelander (new)

Greenelander | 59 comments Well, I like Hogarth's work anyway so I broke down and ordered a copy. Hogarth and GG, gotta be good, I reckon. Fingers crossed.

message 29: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
Just came across this. 'Intelligent Life' online journal, has been doing a series called 'Notes on a Voice.' They (I mean to say, Nicholas Shakespeare) are up to their 5th installment now (W.G. Sebald), but their first was Greene. Here's the link:

message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
and here's the copy (w/a few of the comments):

In the second instalment of our series on what makes distinctive writers distinctive, Nicholas Shakespeare tackles Graham Greene ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Summer 2010

“Tiger, darling,” Graham Greene’s wife used to say whenever she found a florid metaphor—and out it would go. His rival and fellow Catholic, Anthony Burgess, said that Greene sought in his writing “a kind of verbal transparency which refuses to allow language to become a character in its own right”. His voice is the driest of any great writer, drier than bone.

His sentences are lean, lucid, free of the “beastly” adverb, as well as of authorial comment and moral judgment. He is hard to quote, not being epigrammatic like his friend and fellow Catholic Evelyn Waugh; nor easy to parody, like their contemporary Ernest Hemingway. But it rarely takes more than three of those sentences to situate you in Greeneland, a place whose moral temperature would wring sweat out of a fridge. He doesn’t have a style so much as a humidity.

Greene’s prose has the clarity of a pane of glass, yet it creates an air of menace, almost an airlessness, which intensifies the drama. His simplicity makes him appear modern, and two of his novels, “The End of the Affair” and “The Quiet American”, have been re-made for the screen since 2000. Now it’s the turn of “Brighton Rock” (first filmed in 1947, with Richard Attenborough), with the tigerish Helen Mirren down to play one of Greene’s signature waif-like women.

Golden rule

Get on with it. Character comes through dialogue and action. No tiresome philosophy (except about God, generally one of Greene’s least successful characters). He believes in “the importance of a human activity truthfully reported”.

Key decisions

Using Catholic themes for “Brighton Rock” (1938) and his tenth (and best) novel, “The Power and the Glory” (1940). They brought a commercial breakthrough and landed him with the reputation of a Catholic novelist, which resulted in “The Heart of the Matter” (1948)—his most famous book, but one he grew to loathe. (“I hated the hero,” he told me in a BBC interview. When I asked which was his favourite of his own books, he answered without hesitation: “The Honorary Consul”—one of eight novels he set in and around South America.) In an age of diminishing faith, he uses Catholic parables in a way that lend them a power beyond their biblical origins—mining the gospels rather as John Le Carré, his most obvious successor, has mined the cold war.

Strong points

Page-turning. Greene doesn’t despise the thriller or detective story. Billing his novels as “entertainments”, he is not afraid of suspenseful chapter endings, which Virginia Woolf would never have understood. He allies dramatic and comic storytelling with the economy of the age of cinema, drawing on his experience as a film critic for the Spectator. Whereas the great novels of the 19th century went on and on, the power of Greene lies in his concision; he wrote novels of about 80,000 words, which you can read and digest in a sitting, getting back to the unitary power of drama. When he reached his daily target of 500 words, he would stop—even in mid-sentence. Oh, and he wrote the screenplay for one of the best English films, “The Third Man”.

Favourite trick

Learned from Joseph Conrad, the trick of comparing something abstract to something concrete. If we remember any of his phrases it is likely to be one of these images: “silence like a thin rain”, or a brothel madam’s kindness mislaid like a pair of spectacles.

Role models

At 12, his favourite character was the detective Dixon Brett, his favourite authors John Buchan, Marjorie Bowen and H. Rider Haggard. But his potency is anticipated most clearly in the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, his idol and distant cousin.

Typical sentence

“I believe in the evil of God.”—from “The Honorary Consul”.

Illustration: Katherine Rathke

(Nicholas Shakespeare is a former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph and the author of "Secrets of the Sea". His latest novel "Inheritance", was published by Harvill Secker in July. His last piece for Intelligent Life was about living in Tasmania, outer space on earth.)

Two Small Corrections
August 7, 2010 - 09:57 — Dogberry (not verified)

That's a fine article, but it misses two things.

First, Eric Ambler was a huge influence on Graham Greene. The Third Man was essentially a re-working of an Ambler novel.

Second, Greene is easily parodized. He used to enter competitions with parodies of his own work under a pseudonym. Details here.

August 7, 2010 - 12:35 — andrea (not verified)

Actually Graham Greene's brother and sister used to write parodies of his novels. He even wrote them himself and entered them in competitions. There's an article about it here.

"beastly adverbs"
August 9, 2010 - 18:14 — Atlanta (not verified)

The first sentence of the first chapter of Greene's novel The Comedians contains three adverbs. The second contains two. I enjoyed the piece on Greene, but am not sure if all his prose is as lean as all that...?

message 31: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
glad you liked it!

message 32: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 27, 2011 05:16PM) (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Tx for sharing. Author has error on role Mirren is doing in new "Rock." At 65 she isn't playing the "waif-like " Rose, age 16...she's the 'busty' Ida!

message 33: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
you're right!
correction needed!

message 34: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments I went to SITE to cx, but couldn't log-in.

message 35: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
hmmm...maybe you need to subscribe to comment, I've an online sub. that's free

message 36: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments My password (?) was rejected! Love that. Rose, if you cx, is played x Andrea Risenborough or something very much like this. Marlborough, Hillsborough, the Duchess of Devonshire?

message 37: by Ben (new)

Ben | 34 comments Thanks for sharing, Jessica!

message 38: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 28, 2011 09:31AM) (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Sticking to US: no contempo writer stacks up to the scope and texture of GG. Salinger is 'important,' yah, we luv his precious juvenilia, blabla. Updike, Cheever swamp us w suburbia and Roth does same w his suburbia. Is there anyone post-1935 who equals GG?? I'd like to hear from others. (I sus this applies to UK too).

message 39: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
well, I can't think of anyone, no.
I tend to gravitate toward UK and So. African writers myself; I happen to love JM Coetzee (who did the intro to my edition of B.Rock) and Kazuo Ishiguro, for example.

Some people might sugest US novelist Richard Price, but I haven't read him yet.

message 40: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 28, 2011 10:00AM) (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Price writes about ghetto life. NO variety at all. No breadth, no texture, no insights, no nothing, it's computer diarrhea. You don't need to read him. Yes, he made a fortune w pic sales. But he's 1000% disposable. He has a tuff agent who demands biggest fees. He makes John O'Hara seem like Proust. Now the people who think he's 'good' may be tolerated, barely. Those who think more, if friends, must be DROPPED instanto....

message 41: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod

well i guess three's a reason I stayed away...

message 42: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments He made a 'splash' in '70s w "Blood Brothers," which was made into pic. He repeats variations of same. That he has a deformed hand cuts no ice.

message 43: by Helen (new)

Helen (HelenMarylesShankman) | 245 comments Mod
Thanks for posting that article, Jessica!

Sorry, Sketchbook. Gotta disagree with you about Richard Price. "Lush Life" was one of the best things I read last year.

Anybody reading anything Greene right now?

message 44: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Disagreement is aok. I was asking is there anyone around today (US) who stands alongside GG, a placement I don't think Price holds. (His 'Lush' title is a steal from a fine bio of Billy Strayhorn). ==I am reading GGs Collected short stories.

message 45: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 29, 2011 02:22AM) (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments The NYer, April 4: Do not miss reading "Murder Foretold" by David Grann, which has a real-life 'plot' in Guatemala that would rattle GG. Well, maybe.

message 46: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
I'm still reading 'Travels with my Aunt,' Helen. I'd put it aside to read a work of non-fiction but am back to it now. It's very enjoyable.

message 47: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
btw, this whole series, "Notes on a Voice,' is a excellent. Really very good...the other voices 'dissected' (each by a different author) are: V.S. Naipaul, Chaucer, Sebald.

message 48: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 412 comments Mod
would love to see Muriel Spark done next...

message 49: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook | 218 comments Good idea.

message 50: by Helen (new)

Helen (HelenMarylesShankman) | 245 comments Mod
"Travels With My Aunt" was fun.
I agree with you, Sketchbook, no one in the US holds a candle to him. In the UK, I like Ian McEwan, the issues he takes on, his fundamental sense of decency, and of course, the beauty of his words. Somehow, his work reminds me of GG's.

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