Graham Greene 1904-1991
(Full name Graham Henry Greene) English novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, critic, autobiographer, travel writer, and poet. See also Graham Greene Criticism (Introduction), and Volumes 1, 3, 6, 9, 18, 125.
One of the most prolific and widely read English novelists of the twentieth century, Greene is known for both his best-selling suspense novels and for his more serious works of fiction, particularly the novels Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, and The Heart of the Matter. Greene has also been lauded for such short stories as "The Basement Room," "The Destructors," and "Under the Garden," all of which are generally considered classics in the genre. The protagonists of Greene's fiction are typically people torn by personal struggles with Roman Catholic concepts of sin and salvation, reflecting the author's concern with religious and moral questions. Greene also frequently addressed such themes as lost childhood, dreams, literature and art, and politics. In addition to writing fiction, Greene experimented with many other genres, including drama, film criticism, and travel writing. Grahame Smith has written that Greene's diverse writing career testifies "to a creative energy that. . . sought to explore the forms open to literary imagination, and to the fact that Greene [was] a writer in the deepest, as well as the widest, sense of the term."
Born in Berkhamsted, a village northwest of London, Greene was one of six children. His father was the headmaster at Berkhamsted school, where Greene was educated. The regimented life and lack of privacy at the school, along with his father's constant moralizing on the sinfulness of sex, deeply affected Greene. A withdrawn child, he complained of terrible boredom, attempted suicide several times as a youth, and suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of sixteen. Despite a period of psychoanalysis in 1921, Greene attempted suicide six more times during his years as a student at Balliol College, Oxford. After graduating from Balliol in 1925, Greene worked as a subeditor on the Nottingham Journal and the London Times, later serving as a film critic and then literary editor for the Spectator. He married Vivien Dayrell-Browning in 1927, and the couple later had two children. While in Nottingham, Greene converted to Roman Catholicism. In his memoirs, he explains he did so partly to satisfy his wife and partly "to kill the time," but the Roman Catholic religion would later become a powerful force in both his life and literary works. Greene published his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929; he achieved popular success with his fourth novel, Stamboul Train, published as Orient Express in the United States. Greene separated from his wife in 1966, and shortly after he established permanent residence in Antibes on the French Riviera. Over the rest of his long and prolific career, Greene would continue to produce almost one book per year. He also traveled to such places as the Tabasco and Chiapas regions of Mexico, French Indochina, the Belgian Congo, Haiti, and Cuba during periods of social and political unrest to gather details for his works. Greene died in 1991 in Vevey, Switzerland, of leukemia.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Greene's first short story collection, The Basement Room, was published in 1935, but he did not receive critical attention for his short fiction until Nineteen Stories appeared in 1947. The pieces in this work were written between 1929 and 1948 and many originally appeared in such journals as the New Yorker, Harper's, and the Commonweal. In the preface to this collection, Greene noted: "I am only too conscious of the defects of these stories. . . . The short story is an exacting form which I have not properly practiced: I present these tales merely as the byproducts of a novelist's career." Although at the time Greene was somewhat unsure about his talents as a short story writer, this volume contains some of his best-known stories, including "The Basement Room" and "The Hint of an Explanation." "The Basement Room" centers on a seven-year-old boy, Philip Lane, who is left by his parents with Mr. and Mrs. Baines, the butler and the housekeeper. Philip comes to learn that Mr. Baines is having an affair with a young woman, and this knowledge inadvertently causes the accidental death of Mrs. Baines. Narrated by Philip sixty years after the event, "The Basement Room" addresses such themes as childhood innocence, betrayal, trust, and the nature of evil. "The Hint of an Explanation," which first appeared in the American edition of Nineteen Stories and was later included in Twenty-One Stories, is often called a moral drama because of its focus on such religious concerns as temptation, compassion, and the origins of faith. The story begins when two men meet on a train. One of the men, David, relates to the narrator of the story a childhood experience that caused him to enter the priesthood. As a young altar boy, David was persuaded by the village baker, Blacker, an atheist, to steal a consecrated communion host from his church. In return, Blacker would give him an electric train set. Although David does steal the host, he foils Blacker at the last minute by swallowing it. Another of Greene's most highly acclaimed works of short fiction, "The Destructors," appeared in Twenty-One Stories. Set in London's Wormsley Common, much of which was destroyed or damaged during the German bombing of World War II, this story centers on a local gang of boys. After two of its members, Trevor and Blackie, struggle for leadership of the group, the boys decide to systematically gut one of the last standing houses in the neighborhood, a building designed by famed English architect Christopher Wren. Exploring such themes as class structure, politics, creation, innocence, and depravity, "The Destructors" is considered one of Greene's most disturbing short stories. A Sense of Reality contains only four stories, with "Under the Garden" comprising more than half of the book. This story focuses on William Wilditch, who, suffering from lung cancer, returns to the house where he spent his boyhood holidays in order to confront a childhood memory that has obsessed him throughout his life. In this work, Greene examines lost childhood, memory, innocence, dreams, and the art of fiction writing. This collection also contains the story "A Visit to Morin," which relates the story of a man who meets a French Catholic writer whose works he admires. After their accidental meeting during mass in a village church, the two men share a drink and discuss faith and belief. May We Borrow Your Husband? contains twelve stories, many of which are set in the south of France and focus on marital relationships. The pieces in this collection are often described as being more humorous and playful than Greene's other short stories; Greene himself once noted they were written "in a single mood of sad hilarity." "Cheap in August," for example, relates the experiences of an English-born woman, Mary Watson, who is on vacation in Jamaica while her husband is conducting research in London for his book on James Thompson's The Seasons. Mary, looking for sexual adventure, has an affair with an older, overweight, and uncouth American man. "May We Borrow Your Husband?" tells the story of two homosexual interior designers, Tony and Stephen, who attempt to seduce a young husband from his wife while the couple is honeymooning in Antibes. The Last Word, which appeared in Britain and the United States a few weeks before Greene's death, collects works written from 1923 to 1989, with only four of the stories previously appearing in book form. This work varies greatly in subject matter and addresses such themes as corruption, disillusionment, failures of communication, and death.
Greene has been the source of much contention among critics. He has been lauded as a master novelist who examined the place of religion and morality in twentieth-century society; he has also been decried as a melodramatist who relied too heavily on coincidence and metaphor. Although the majority of critics agree that Greene was an able storyteller, particularly in his delineation of setting and his skillful plot constructions, opinions vary widely concerning his ability to create believable characters and artfully communicate themes. Some of the most contentious critical debate has centered on Greene's depiction of Catholic concerns, even though Greene noted that Catholicism marked only "one period" of his career. Reaction to Greene's short fiction, which has received relatively little scholarly attention compared to his novels, reflects the general critical ambivalence toward Greene's work, with some reviewers dismissing his stories as mere preparatory sketches for his novels or simple burlesque pieces. Some have also stated that Greene used his short stories only as vehicles to work out traumatic events from his childhood or to didactically present a single theme or idea. Others, however, have called some of his short stories genuine masterpieces, and such works as "The Basement Room" and "The Destructors" have been widely anthologized and studied. Greene himself stated in the introduction to his Collected Stories: "I believe I have never written anything better than 'The Destructors,' 'A Chance for Mr. Lever,' 'Under the Garden,' and 'Cheap in August'." Although earlier critics tended to focus on moral themes in Greene's works and characterized him as a "Catholic writer," more recent scholars have commented on his political, social, and aesthetic themes and his use of myth, psychology, and symbolism. Recent critics have also placed more emphasis on Greene's short stories, underscoring the important role they played in the development of his writing, and have suggested they will garner wider and more serious scholarly attention in the future. Richard Kelly has concluded that Greene's short stories, "when reviewed in their entirety, . . . reveal a lifelong psychodrama that reflects his addiction to excitement, travel, and writing itself. Further, these tales reveal his persistent battle with the demons of his youth and his ability to transform them into characters and themes and later to shape them into religious, political, and social issues."
The Basement Room 1935
The Bear Fell Free 1935
Nineteen Stories 1947; also published as Twenty-OneStories [enlarged edition], 1954
A Sense of Reality 1963
May We Borrow Your Husband? and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life 1967
Collected Stories 1972
The Last Word, and Other Stories 1990
Other Major Works
Babbling April (poetry) 1925
The Man Within (novel) 1929
The Name of Action (novel) 1930
Rumour at Nightfall (novel) 1931
Stamboul Train (novel) 1932; published in the United States as Orient Express, 1933
It's a Battlefield (novel) 1934
England Made Me (novel) 1935; published in the United States as The Shipwrecked, 1953
A Gun for Sale (novel) 1936; published in the United States as This Gun for Hire, 1936
Journey without Maps (travel essays) 1936
Brighton Rock (novel) 1938; revised edition, 1947
The Confidential Agent (novel) 1939
The Lawless Roads (travel essays) 1939
The Power and the...
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SOURCE: "Graham Greene's World," in New York Times Book Review, February 13, 1949, pp. 3, 28-9.
[In the following positive review o/Nineteen Stories, Barr provides an overview of Greene's career and states that the stories in the volume reflect Greene's development as a novelist.]
"I present these tales," says Graham Greene at the beginning of this new collection of his short stories [Nineteen Stories], "merely as the by-products of a novelist's career." There are eighteen stories and a fragment of an abandoned novel. Most of them are very good in themselves—two of them brilliant—but it is not only for their solid virtues as English short stories, their quietness and lucid ease, that they are important. It is also for the light they throw on one of the most interesting novelists of our generation.
The stories give us fresh glimpses of Greene's special world: the world of peeling billboards and jerry-built houses, of "dying jungles," of harassed and frightened, vainglorious and peevish, hungry and unlikable men, each with his own clumsily hidden burden of futility, damnation, or flabby love, scuttling or lounging through eternity.
Greene is now 45, and has been writing novels, "entertainments," and travel books—and these stories—for twenty years. But until the publication last year of his novel, The Heart of the Matter, his American...
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SOURCE: A review of Nineteen Stories, in The Commonweal, Vol. XLIX, No. 1, March 11, 1949, pp. 546-47.
[In the positive assessment of Nineteen Stories below, Burnham discusses stylistic and thematic elements in the short stories.]
The variety of mood in these stories [19 Stories] of Graham Greene, the first of which was written in 1929 (Greene was born in 1905) and the last in 1948, will surprise readers acquainted only with Greene's best-known works, The Heart of the Matter, The Labyrinthine Ways, Brighton Rock. A list of American magazines in which some of the stories appeared gives a good hint of this variety: The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, Tomorrow, Town and Country, The Commonweal (Cosmopolitan has also printed him but, perhaps for copyright reasons, the story is not included in the American edition of 19 Stories).
The Esquire story, "When Greek Meets Greek," is a genial account of how two wily old frauds outsmart themselves in the attempt to outsmart one another. The New Yorker story, "Men at Work," is a burlesque, somewhat reminiscent of early Evelyn Waugh, of wartime operations in the British Ministry of Propaganda. There are other humorous stories, in one of which, "Alas Poor Maling," the humor is on the level of slapstick. The Harper's story, "Proof Positive," and also "The Second Death"...
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SOURCE: "Twenty-Seven Stories," in Partisan Review, Vol. XVI, No. 7, July, 1949, pp. 753-55.
[In the following mixed evaluation of Nineteen Stories, Rosenfeld praises Greene's honest depiction of childhood but faults his attempts at confessional writing.]
Graham Greene, who writes two kinds of books, serious novels and entertainments, is never as serious or entertaining a writer as when he writes a simple story about childhood, leaving out crooks, spies, confidential agents and his own brand of Anxiety. There are several such stories in the present collection [Nineteen Stories] and they are the best in the volume (three of them, in fact, are good), because they were written without the intention of distilling from the steam of the pot boiler a moral critique of our age. Which is to say that Greene is at his best when he is least himself.
For once the perspective is immediate. We come directly to the unhappy child and his trouble without having to make the usual detour through the secondary symbol formations of flight and pursuit, etc., of the thrillers. Childhood, for Greene, is the time of the innocence and horror of sex. The innocent, in the story by that name, is the young boy capable of leaving a love message for his sweetheart in the form of a crude drawing of a man and a woman in the sex act. The grown man, returning to the scene with a prostitute for a one...
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SOURCE: "Master Craftsman," in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 209, No. 6, June, 1962, pp. 109-11.
[In the following mixed review of Twenty-One Stories, Barrett praises Greene's craftsmanship but faults his inability to present realistic characters.]
Graham Greene has never particularly favored the short story, yet it turns out that in his mastery of this form he is as sure and accomplished a craftsman as in the departments of drama and the novel. Twenty-One Stories gives us all the tales that Mr. Greene seems to want to preserve from his long and prolific career, and they bring out in very sharp relief all of his literary qualities, positive as well as negative.
The very conciseness of the short-story form, indeed, can give a greater intensity—like a harsh black-and-white drawing—to the macabre side of Mr. Greene's imagination.
In "The Basement Room," a boy's glimpse into the marital tragedy of his beloved butler's life, is far more bleak and grim in its mood than the fine motion picture that was made from it some years ago by the distinguished English director Carol Reed. But the story, in its compression, has also more bite and power than the picture.
When the comic mood is upon him, Mr. Greene can be very funny, but the humor is never relaxing. "A Chance for Mr. Lever" tells the absurd tale of a middle-aged salesman chasing...
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SOURCE: "Stories by Greene," in The Commonweal, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 6, July 12, 1963, pp. 432, 434.
[Below, Wilkie presents a positive assessmenet of A Sense of Reality, discussing Greene's use of myth, fantasy, and psychology in the work.]
In this new collection of short fiction [A Sense of Reality] Graham Greene does something he has not done before. In his previous work Greene has treated the world, if not his people and themes, naturalistically; his heroes have generally been morality-play figures, but his settings and plots have been matter-of-fact, circumstantially realistic. In fact, one of the most characteristic notes in Greene's serious fiction (melodrama and whimsy have always had some place in his "entertainments") has been the contrast between the sense of circumambient grace and the ridiculously shabby world in which grace operates. This literal-minded concern with dreary, commonplace reality, on which Greene seems to have hung the sign "Out of Order," has been important for him, since through the literal shabbiness of the world he has been able to attack the illusion of material well-being which men use in order to conceal from themselves the fact that they live in a fallen, evil world.
In A Sense of Reality, however, two, perhaps three, of the stories lean heavily on myth, fantasy, or other forms of narrative mannerism. (The very...
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SOURCE: "A Strong Smell of Fish," in The New Republic, Vol. 149, August 31, 1963, pp. 31-3.
[In the following mixed review of A Sense of Reality, Corke comments on the four stories in the volume, praising Greene's professionalism and faulting his use of paradox.]
Although the blurb describes it as his "main occupation" during the past two years, Mr. Greene's new collection (his first since 1949) contains only [A Sense of Reality] 119 smallish pages and only four stories—half of which the first occupies more than half the book, so that we may not unfairly concentrate our attention upon it. "Under The Garden" begins with a doctor explaining to William Wilditch, in a more or less breezy impersonal way, that he has cancer of the lung. The scene is in Mr. Greene's best flat sad manner, especially appropriate for the conveying of quiet horror. Before deciding whether or not to accept the operation, Wilditch revisits the house in which he spent his boyhood holidays—it has belonged to his brother for the past thirty years but he has always hitherto avoided it, as he was disappointed that it was not left to him. Everything (surprise, surprise!) seems much smaller than he had remembered it. We are made aware that something cataclysmic happened to the boy William on an island in the lake in the garden of this house, something that determined the whole future course of his life, something...
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SOURCE: "The Witch at the Corner: Notes on Graham Greene's Mythology," in Graham Greene: Some Critical Considerations, edited by Robert O. Evans, University of Kentucky Press, 1963, pp. 231-44.
[In the essay below, Scott examines Greene's use of myth in his short stories, focusing in particular on his depiction of the myth of childhood within the context of African and primitive themes.]
In the short story often lies the microcosm of an author's total vision, and for Graham Greene that medium has provided the emblem for both "the power and the glory" of his longer works. Indeed, the volume Nineteen Stories (1949), the best but by no means the only collection of Greene's shorter fiction, contains more than a "hint of an explanation" toward a fuller realization of his world view. Few critics, however, have perceived the significance of the short stories to the whole of Greene's work. Furthermore, those who discuss the short fiction often err in not recognizing the thick web of consciousness surrounding the hero's actions and read them as if they expressed only the conventional Christian dichotomy between good and evil. George Silveira's "Greene's 'The Basement Room,'" [in The Explicator XV, December 1956] for example, searches the Catholic Encyclopedia to discover the relation between the Church's designation of man's seventh year for attaining the age of reason and the age of...
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SOURCE: "Greene's 'Under the Garden': Aesthetic Explorations," in Renascence: A Critical Journal of Letters, Vol. XVII, No. 4, Summer, 1965, pp. 180-90, 194.
[In the essay below, Boardman examines Greene's treatment of aesthetic concerns, including faith, belief imagination, and moral consciousness, in "Under the Garden."]
"Under the Garden," first published in Greene's A Sense of Reality (1963), might well have been written as a commentary on his own explorations, his aesthetic discoveries that have invariably been tied to actual journeys, whether to Africa, Mexico, or Indo-China. It is a mythic rendition of his recurrent themes of lost childhood, of a universal "journey without maps," and a quest for "the heart of the matter." As counterpoint to these thematic variations, there are echoes of familiar episodes, characters, and symbols from Greene's other writing.
As far back as 1936, Greene wrote of ". . . legend, figures which will dramatize the deepest personal fantasy and deepest moral consciousness of a man's time: this . . . is the only thing worth attempting." In "Under the Garden" he has provided his own form of legend and figures (Javitt and Maria) who do indeed dramatize both personal fantasy and moral consciousness. This fifty-nine page story could serve also as a commentary on Greene's theory and practice of the craft of fiction. At first the reader may see...
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SOURCE: "Greene Thoughts in a Greene Shade," in New York Times Book Review, April 30, 1967, p. 5.
[In the following mixed review of May We Borrow Your Husband? Allen states that the stories vary in quality but show "the author at play."]
There is an element in writing that critics (by and large, a more serious-minded race of men than the creators whose works they discuss) give altogether too little attention. This can best be called the element of play, the writer's delight in his own cleverness and virtuosity, his ability to make bricks without straw and to do so simply for the fun it provides. It is a naive pleasure—and, for some writers, perhaps a fundamental one.
On the face of it, it is not one readily associated with Graham Greene. The great theme of his fiction has been that of "Man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree." Yet no close inspection is called for to see that, from the beginning, his work has been informed by a strong element of play. It is there in his prewar "entertainments," especially in the best of them, This Gun for Hire. It appears, too, in his wartime "entertainment," The Ministry of Fear. One suspects, indeed, that these books were devised almost as much for his own enjoyment as for his readers'. But after The Ministry of Fear there were no more entertainments for more than a decade. Instead, there were the...
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SOURCE: A review of May We Borrow Your Husband? in The Commonweal, Vol. LXXXVI, No. 1, August 25, 1967, pp. 527-28.
[In the following mixed evaluation, Coffey faults the unevenness and lack of emotional power in May We Borrow Your Husband? but praises five stories for their shrewdness and craftsmanship.]
Graham Greene will be raising sixty-three this year, a remarkable old stager altogether and still doing a stint of writing every day and doing it, on the whole, very smartly, as the twelve stories in this collection [May We Borrow Your Husband?] show. Though three of them are skip and four are fill, that leaves five stories as shrewd and funny as any being written today. And five for twelve makes .416, and who else is hitting .400 this year?
The three skip stories are "Beauty," about a rich American woman and her pekingese dog; "The Over-night Bag," about a citizen who carries a dead baby back to England from France in his luggage; and "A Shocking Accident," about a young man whose father is killed in the street by having a pig drop on his head. As one ready to concede that many rich American women and all Pekingese dogs are deplorable, I nonetheless found "Beauty" over-charged with the nastiness that Greene can fall into when he starts carving up comfortable people. Stories about dead babies and about people killed by falling pigs, on the other hand, are a...
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SOURCE: "Graham Greene's 'The Hint of an Explanation': A Reinterpretation," in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. VIII, No. 4, Fall, 1971, pp. 601-05.
[In the following essay, Coulthard reexamines common interpretations of "The Hint of an Explanation," focusing on Greene's depiction of the character Blacker.]
Good fiction, as the saying goes, lends itself to a number of interpretations. But a generation of readers brought up on irony, ambiguity, and levels of meaning has been uncharacteristically eager to accept Graham Greene's widely anthologized "The Hint of an Explanation" as merely a simple moral drama and enthusiastically to praise it as such.
On the surface, the story is simple. A chance traveling companion of a priest retells a story that the priest told him while on a train trip. There is little dramatic interplay between the priest and the narrator. The traveler's retelling of the priest's story is objective, consisting almost entirely of a restatement of the priest's own words.
The priest is as subjective as the narrator is objective, and herein lies the problem of a one-level interpretation. The cleric not only tells the story, but explains its meaning to his fellow traveler. If the reader accepts the priest's interpretation of his childhood experience, the story is elementary. Its theme is that God sends saving signs, or hints, to his chosen. These hints...
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SOURCE: "Politics in Graham Greene's 'The Destructors'," in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. XII, No. 1, Winter, 1978, pp. 31-41.
[In the following essay, McCartney discusses the political implications of "The Destructors," concluding that the story is "essentially a reflection of twentieth-century British politics."]
Although Graham Greene's fiction has been widely praised and widely circulated, critics have focused rather narrowly on two exclusive features of it. Noting Greene's distinction between novels and "entertainments," they have provided genre studies; or, noting his Catholicism, they have discussed the religious themes in his fiction to the exclusion of other considerations. Such biases have resulted in oversights and distortions in the criticism of his work. For example, despite the genre studies just mentioned, critics have largely ignored Greene's short stories or deemed them unworthy of critical study. Greene himself relegated his short stories to an insignificant place in his canon (maintaining at most that he was a novelist who "happened to write short stories"), and scholars have taken him pretty much at his word.
In addition, their intense interest in Greene's religious theme has distracted them from a careful consideration of the social and political conflicts which are so often the source of the basic conflicts of his plots. As James L. McDonald asserts: "For far...
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SOURCE: "Graham Greene: The Short Stories," in Graham Greene: A Revaluation: New Essays, edited by Jeffrey Meyers, The Macmillan Press, 1990, pp. 93-103.
[In the essay below, Bayley provides a thematic and stylistic overview of Greene's short stories.]
"The Miracle of Purun Bhagat" is a story by Kipling that comes at the end of The Jungle Book, and Graham Greene thought it his best. It is not hard to see why. An Indian administrator in the British Raj, of such high rank that he has had bestowed on him the rare honour of a knighthood, abandons his former way of life to become a hermit in the Himalayas. One night in the Rains the animals come past his hut, having lost all fear of men, and he realizes that a big landslide is on the way. All his old instincts of responsibility return, and he warns and saves the local villagers. For Kipling the story's moral is obvious—indeed rather glib—but as with many of the best short stores the atmosphere is much more important than the anecdote, and the atmosphere in the tale is that of the Hills, and the peace and liberation they confer. There is something genuinely transcendental in the feel of it.
Greene would have felt this. In his own story "The Hint of an Explanation," written in 1948, he tried for the transcendental by a rather different route, a variant on the route taken by G. K. Chesterton in the Father Brown stories. But...
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SOURCE: "Short Stories, Plays, Essays," in Understanding Graham Greene, University of South Carolina Press, 1990, pp. 149-76.
[In the excerpt below, Miller analyzes three of Greene's short stories, including "The Basement Room," "The Destructors," and "Under the Garden," which the critic believes represent the themes and techniques of Greene's short fiction as a whole.]
Graham Greene is one of the most successful short story writers of all time. Very few writers achieve the ability to rivet readers' attention to a dramatic situation, turn it into meaning through ingenious manipulations of plot, and in the end leave them astonished, breathless. His range is extensive, moving from the introspective to the bizarre to the shocking. Greene's output is contained in five collections, issued from 1935 through 1967: The Basement Room and Other Stories (1935), Nineteen Stories (1947), Twenty-One Stories (1954), A Sense of Reality (1963), and May We Borrow Your Husband? and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life (1967). These were subsequently brought together into one volume, Collected Stories (1972). In addition, several uncollected stories have appeared. Eighteen of the stories were filmed for the series Shades of Greene, produced by Thames Television in 1976 and shown over the Public Broadcasting System in the United States,...
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SOURCE: "Ever Greene," in New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1991, pp. 13-14.
[In the following mixed review, Stern states that even though The Last Word does not reflect his best works of short fiction, Greene is nevertheless a masterful short story writer.]
In the introduction to his massive 562-page Collected Stories, published in 1972, Graham Greene writes: "I remain in this field a novelist who has happened to write short stories, just as there are certain short story writers (Maupassant and Mr. V. S. Pritchett come to mind) who have happened to write novels."
About Maupassant and Mr. Pritchett, Mr. Greene may be right, but there is also a whole other subset of writers who are equally at home in the short story and the novel (Bernard Malamud and Flannery O'Connor come to mind). It is in this group, in spite of his demurrer, that I would place Graham Greene. So much for placement. The real trick is understanding this astonishing author at the stage of the writing life he now occupies. He is 86, has written more than 60 books—and is the world's most conspicuous nonwinner of the prize many, including this reviewer, think he clearly earned years ago, the Nobel.
From 1940 on, Graham Greene, in an unequaled display of productivity and creative originality, produced book after book that enriched our sense of what the modern novel could do in...
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SOURCE: "Loosing the Devils," and "The Last Word" in Graham Greene: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne, 1992, pp. 3-16, 70-87.
[In the following excerpt, Kelly examines Greene's early short stories, written during his years as a student, stating that in these works Greene worked out the "terrors and frustrations" of his youth. Kelly then discusses The Last Word, a work he feels "conveys a synoptic view of the stages of [Greene's] life as a writer."]
Rarely has a writer been more obsessed with his lost childhood than has Graham Greene. In this respect he is clearly the child of the romantic period, whose poets, such as Blake and Wordsworth, celebrate the bright joys of innocence that quickly give way to the dark pains of experience. Greene also found his obsession mirrored in the novels of Charles Dickens, where Victorian society seems dead set upon destroying the bodies and souls of children. Similarly, Greene's admiration for the minor Victorian poet Arthur Hugh Clough, whom he calls the only adult poet of the age, derives from his own spiritual malaise. During Clough's years at Oxford he lost the serenity of his Christian faith and turned to writing poetry as a means of defending himself against the doubts that raged against his desire for belief in God. Like Clough, Greene's sense of dislocation from his childhood and from his Christian faith intensified during his Oxford days, and he sought...
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Cassis, A. F. Graham Greene: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1981, 401 p.
Thorough bibliography of works about Greene through 1979. Includes annotations and indexes.
Miller, Robert H. Graham Greene: A Descriptive Catalog. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1979, 73 p.
Gives descriptions of the first editions of Greene's books, pamphlets, radio scripts, and letters in the collection of the University of Louisville.
Wobbe, R. A. Graham Greene: A Bibliography and Guide to Research. New York: Garland, 1979, 440 p.
Primary and secondary bibliography that covers publications and some manuscripts through 1976.
Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939. New York: Viking, 1989, 783 p.
Greene's authorized biography. This volume, the first volume in a projected two-volume work, details Greene's life from his birth through the beginning of World War II.
Clarke, Peter P. "Graham Greene's Th e Destructors': An Anarchist Parable." English Language Notes XXIII, No. 3 (March...
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