Matt's Reviews > The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fictions-of-the-big-it, shattering, social-crit, modern-library-100

** spoiler alert **
I read this- the bulk of this- in one sitting.

I don't know what it is, other than remnants of Catholic guilt which moves me still even as I grew up American Protestant rather than Greene's devoutly tormented English Catholicism but this book really caught fire for me about a hundred pages from the end. The bells are ringing, Scobie's freaking out, and I'm losing my shit.

I actually read- no joke- about 20 pages of the last act of the thing aloud in a superpompous British accent in order to laugh off my intimations of impending doom.

Recommended activity for anyone, especially when things internal and external get too fucked up.

Greene writes with this smooth narrative power that I am spellbound by everytime I find it.


"Round the corner, in front of the old cotton tree, where the earliest settlers had gathered their first day on the unfriendly shore, stood the law courts and police station, a great stone building like the grandiloquent boast of weak men. (!)

Inside that massive frame the human being rattled in the corridors like a dry kernel. (!!)

No one could have been adequate to so rhetorical a conception. But the idea in any case was only one room deep. In the dark narrow passage behind, in the charge-room and the cells, Scobie could always detect the odor of human meanness and injustice- it was the smell of a zoo, of sawdust, excrement, ammonia, and lack of liberty. The place was scrubbed daily, but you could never eliminate the smell. Prisoners and policemen carried it in their clothing like cigarette smoke." (!!!)

There's a word for this kind of thing.

And that word is.......writing....
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 2, 2006 – Finished Reading
February 17, 2008 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Dolors (new) - added it

Dolors Not only did I like the review Matt, I also read it and it confirmed my need to read Greene asap.

Matt Thanks Dolors! I just wanted to publicly check how many people are "following" my reviews, since I've got 189 people who are apparently doing this and sometimes I have writing I'd really like to promote.

And praise from you is always welcome! Greene is great about half the time, I'd say. This one, The Quiet American and The End of the Affair are masterpieces.

message 3: by Steve (new)

Steve Excellent cases in point, Matt. I'm like Dolors -- in need of some Greene. I'll have to remember your trick, too. I practiced with the last line of your review -- "And that wuhd is....Wroiting...

BTW, this is the second time I've seen Greene mentioned in as many days. The first was in a review Sam Sacks did of the newest Denis Johnson book:

"Denis Johnson seems the most American of writers. To invoke the author of such contemporary masterpieces as “Jesus’ Son” (1992) and “Train Dreams” (2002) is to summon an image of an angel-headed acolyte of Whitman and Kerouac elegizing Middle America’s addicts and vagabonds. So it’s startling to find him, in a recent interview, testifying to a different debt entirely. “I’m not trying to be Graham Greene, ” he recounted telling his editor. “I think I actually am Graham Greene.”

It’s an influence that becomes more apparent once you begin to look for it. There is often a strongly Catholic leaning to Mr. Johnson’s books, which emphasize the personal struggle with sin and contrition, and he has written fiction and travel reportage from many of the same troubled Third World settings as Greene once did (Latin America, Southeast Asia, Western Africa). Johnson also seems to have borrowed Greene’s method of interspersing serious books with “entertainments”—thus his genre pastiches like the espionage novel “The Stars at Noon” (1986) or the crime noir “Nobody Move” (2009)."

Matt Thanks as ever, good sir.

I think Greene is phenomenal in many ways, and inspiration is a fine standard to set. He could write capital-L Literature and he could write excellent "entertainments" though the word was used too self-deprecatingly, in my opinion.

There's a reason his books make good films. And why he is and was popular and remains deeply politically relevant today.

message 5: by Dee (new) - added it

Dee Here's 10 likes from me :) Will be picking up this one soon!

Matt Thanks Dee!

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