Other literary forms

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In addition to his novels, Henry Green published an autobiographical book, Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait (1940), and several accounts of his World War II firefighting experiences: “A Rescue,” “Mr. Jonas,” and “Firefighting.” Green’s theories regarding writing are expressed in Pack My Bag and in his essays “The English Novel...

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In addition to his novels, Henry Green published an autobiographical book, Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait (1940), and several accounts of his World War II firefighting experiences: “A Rescue,” “Mr. Jonas,” and “Firefighting.” Green’s theories regarding writing are expressed in Pack My Bag and in his essays “The English Novel of the Future” and “A Novelist to His Readers,” which can be found in Contact (1950) and The Listener (1950, 1951). From time to time, Green wrote book reviews on topics that interested him and personal essays ranging in subject from his friend and editor Edward Garnett to public school life in 1914.

Achievements

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For someone who managed both business and literary careers, Henry Green’s achievements are remarkable. Blindness, published in 1926 when Green was twenty-one years old, announced the arrival of a novelist whose artistic poise was illustrated throughnarrative daring and an unusual sense of characterization. Successive novels continued to impress critics and reviewers, though some either misunderstood or disliked Green’s highly individual technique. “Prose,” Green stated in Pack My Bag, “should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known.” He continued by writing that this intimacy should build slowly and encompass unexpressed feelings that “are not bounded by the associations common to place names or to persons with whom the reader is unexpectedly familiar.”

Friends and fellow writers such as Garnett, V. S. Pritchett, W. H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Isherwood, and John Lehman recognized Green’s talent. Several have published articles on his work. Although Green is less known in the United States, Terry Southern, Eudora Welty, and John Updike have paid homage to him in interviews and articles. As critical theory has developed to encompass precisely those narrative strategies articulated by Green in 1939, it seems likely that his literary stature, already assured, will increase.

Bibliography

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Bassoff, Bruce. Toward Loving: The Poetics of the Novel and the Practice of Henry Green. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1975. This lengthy study offers a complex, important discussion of Green’s theory of “nonrepresentational fiction.” His sparse prose, reaching its epitome in Loving, requires a reader to participate imaginatively in the creation of the fiction. Green’s novels show how a postmodernist fiction writer avoids the evaluative, determining narrator at the center of realistic fiction.

Gorra, Michael Edward. The English Novel at Mid-century: From the Leaning Tower. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Examines the twentieth century novel, with discussions of Green, Anthony Powell, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Holmesland, Oddvar. A Critical Introduction to Henry Green’s Novels. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Defines Green’s originality by stressing the similarity of his “dynamic visualization and the effect of film.”

Mengham, Rod. The Idiom of Time: The Writings of Henry Green. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Studies Green’s novelistic development from his first novel in 1926, heavily influenced by Gertrude Stein, through his unfinished novel in 1959, which made him stop writing in fear that he was repeating himself.

North, Michael. Henry Green and the Writing of His Generation. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1984. Explores the personal and thematic links between Green and his major literary contemporaries: Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, Stephen Spender, and Christopher Isherwood. The most important tie is a sense of alienation engendered by strong political ideologies such as Fascism and communism. These writers explore the problem of asserting the identity of the individual self in a hostile social environment.

Odom, Keith C. Henry Green. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Provides a useful biographical-critical study for the beginning student. After introductions to Green’s life, fictional theory, and characteristic style, offers a leisurely, insightful reading of each novel, concluding with an estimate of his importance and influence.

Russell, John. Henry Green: Nine Novels and an Unpacked Bag. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1960. An enthusiastic study of Green. Offers numerous examples of Green’s stylistic puzzles, poetry, enigmas, and sleights-of-hand, paying special attention to his autobiography as a source of Green’s philosophy of art and life.

Ryf, Robert. Henry Green. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. This brief, energetic introduction to Green’s novels reads them in chronological order to trace out his diagnosis of modern society’s spiritual and moral ills.

Stokes, Edward. The Novels of Henry Green. New York: Macmillan, 1959. Makes a case that Green is an important twentieth century novelist whose works offer a transcendent yet objective view of life and whose prose increasingly displays a poet’s attention to language. Organized by topics rather than by novels.

Treglown, Jeremy. Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green. New York: Random House, 2000. A study of the problematic life of the experimental novelist.

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