Saturday, December 03, 2011

Henry Green links

In his own words: The Paris Review interview with Terry Southern in 1958.
INTERVIEWER: I'd like to ask you some questions now about the work itself. You've described your novels as “nonrepresentational.” I wonder if you'd mind defining that term?

GREEN: “Nonrepresentational” was meant to represent a picture which was not a photograph, nor a painting on a photograph, nor, in dialogue, a tape recording. For instance, the very deaf, as I am, hear the most astounding things all round them which have not in fact been said. This enlivens my replies until, through mishearing, a new level of communication is reached. My characters misunderstand each other more than people do in real life, yet they do so less than I. Thus, when writing, I “represent” very closely what I see (and I'm not seeing so well now) and what I hear (which is little) but I say it is “nonrepresentational” because it is not necessarily what others see and hear. … People strike sparks off each other; that is what I try to note down. But mark well, they only do this when they are talking together. … I got the idea of Loving from a manservant in the Fire Service during the war. He was serving with me in the ranks, and he told me he had once asked the elderly butler who was over him what the old boy most liked in the world. The reply was: “Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, listening to the church bells, eating buttered toast with cunty fingers.” I saw the book in a flash.

INTERVIEWER: In your work I believe this reached such a high point of refinement in Loving as to be indiscernable—for, with all the critical analyses that book received, no one called attention to the absurdity of one of the basic situations: that of English servants in an Irish household. Now, isn't that fundamental situation, and the absence of any reference to it throughout the book, intended to be purely absurd?

GREEN: The British servants in Eire while England is at war is Raunce's conflict, and one meant to be satirically funny. It is a crack at the absurd southern Irish and at the same time a swipe at the British servants, who yet remain human beings. But it is meant to torpedo that woman and her daughter-in-law, the employers. As to the rest, the whole of life now is of course absurd— hilarious sometimes, as I told you earlier, but basically absurd.

James Wood on The Leonard Lopate Show. In the twenty-minute segment Wood highlights many of his points in his essay on Green in The Times Literary Supplement (“The Last English Modernist”), which was included in his book The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel (the chapter “Henry Green’s England”). Wood seeks to rescue Green from the “soft obscurity” into which his works have settled.

Jeremy Treglown's biography on Henry Green: Romancing - The Life and Work of Henry Green is a short article on the contrast between a writer and his work. A review of the biography can be found here.

Edward Champion’s entry on Loving in the Modern Library Challenge. Edward makes it clear that the book (or maybe its pace) doesn’t resonate with everyone, as Grant Faulkner makes clear, too.

Update (5 Dec 2011): "The Double Life of Henry Green: The 'Secret' Vice of a Top British Industrialist is Writing Some of Britain's Best Novels" by Nigel Dennis. From the August 4, 1952 edition of Life magazine (check out the ads, too).


Mel u said...

I have read three of Henry Green's novels, Loving, Living and Party Going (which kind of describes Green's Life)-I love his work-he is the master of dialogue-I hope these posts mean you are now reading Green, a very neglected writer.

Dwight said...

Well, I've checked out from the library the Penguin Classics edition of those three novels, but haven't had a chance to read any of them yet. I plan on reading at least Loving. The last two novels may have to wait, even if I enjoy the first one. But we'll see...