Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

You have to read Henry Green

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This has convinced me.

And besides that, Leo Robson has a review in the New Yorker:

One night in the spring of 1955, the actress Elaine Dundy was leaving a party in New York when a sharp-nosed, floppy-haired young man came toward her and, without context or introduction, asked, “Do you know Henry Green?” Dundy replied that she did. The young man told her his name—she instantly forgot it. Dundy told him to contact her, but he didn’t call. Instead, he started appearing in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel, in the West Fifties, where Dundy was staying. On one occasion, he had been waiting around so long that, by the time Dundy showed up, the tulips he was holding had gone droopy. Dundy apologized: could they speak another time? The young man returned the next day, and so did the tulips. But Dundy was running late. When, finally, he caught her at a good time, she invited him up to her room, and he helped her prepare for the arrival of guests while explaining that his name was Terry Southern, that he was a writer from Alvarado, Texas, and that he had waited a very long time to find someone who, on being presented with the question he had posed at their first meeting, was able to answer yes.

At the time, Green was in his late forties and the author of nine novels, including “Living,” “Party Going,” and “Loving,” and a memoir, “Pack My Bag.” His stock was high among fellow-writers. In a 1952 Life profile, W. H. Auden was quoted calling him “the best English novelist alive.” The following year, T. S. Eliot, talking to the Times, cited Green’s novels as proof that the “creative advance in our age is in prose fiction.” But Green had never been a popular success. In 1930, Evelyn Waugh had reviewed “Living,” Green’s novel about Birmingham factory life, under the headline “A Neglected Masterpiece.” It was the first of several dozen articles that bemoaned Green’s lack of acceptance and helped bind his name as closely to the epithet “neglected” as Pallas Athena is to “bright-eyed.”
Waugh blamed philistine book reviewers, but he knew that Green’s image hadn’t helped. “From motives inscrutable to his friends, the author of Living chooses to publish his work under a pseudonym of peculiar drabness,” he wrote. Green was born Henry Vincent Yorke, to a prominent Gloucestershire family, and he worked as the managing director of H Pontifex & Sons Ltd., a manufacturing company purchased by his grandfather; he presented himself as a Sunday writer. (Where other novelists might serve as secretary of pen, Green did a stint as chairman of the British Chemical Plant Manufacturers’ Association.) He claimed that he wrote under an assumed name in order to hide his writing from colleagues and associates. The Life profile, “The Double Life of Henry Green,” had the subtitle “The ‘secret’ vice of a top British industrialist is writing some of Britain’s best novels.” But Green’s first book, “Blindness,” was published in 1926, while he was at Oxford, and a desire for privacy characterized much of his behavior. After a certain point, he refused to have his portrait taken. Dundy had first recognized him from a Cecil Beaton photograph that showed only the back of his head.
The literary scholar Nick Shepley, in “Henry Green: Class, Style, and the Everyday” (Oxford), writes that “the search for an identifiable or classifiable Henry Green retreats into the shadowy distance as the layers accumulate.” But, as Shepley notes, and as NYRB Classics’ new reissues of Green’s novels illustrate, his fiction was autobiographical—at times consciously parasitic. He claimed that he disliked Oxford because “literature is not a subject to write essays about.” In reality, he had discovered that Oxford was not a subject to write novels about—at least, not his time there, which was mostly spent watching movies, playing billiards, poring over Proust with his Eton classmate Anthony Powell, and ignoring his tutor, C. S. Lewis. In a letter to his father, Green explained his decision to abandon his degree in favor of a stint working on the floor at the Pontifex iron foundry: “Of course I have another book in my mind’s eye. . . . I want badly to write a novel about working men.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Books

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