2009: 151-152. The Life of Graham Greene Vols. 1&11

“This biography had its origins in a list which Graham Greene kept - and still keeps - of the books he reads.”

The Life of Graham Greene, Vols. 1 & 11, Norman Sherry

      By my count I have read 1233 pages about Graham Greene’s life, and I would say, conservatively, that I have at least 600 left to go (I am currently working my way through Volume III).  And while I can’t say that these are bad books, or that I’m not enjoying them, as I said before, part of me definitely wonders what on earth possessed me to pick up a three volume biography of anyone, let alone him.  I think, honestly, it’s because the books are really visually appealing - these big orange volumes, with the penguin on their spines, and striking portraits on the front.  I kept seeing them in a used book store (actually, the bookstore only had Volume II - Jon bought me I and III over the internet), and the magpie in me wanted them.  And then I vowed to read them last year, and thought I’d start a Graham Greene project, and though I never made it around to doing that, well, maybe in 2010.

    The biography itself is interesting.  I found the first volume to actually be quite lacking.  I found myself wondering whether I’d give the whole project up.  In particular, I found it a bit tiresome how Sherry mines Greene’s life and tries to find the origin of every bit of fiction he ever wrote - he’s much too keen on fiction as biography, as if someone with Greene’s creativity couldn’t ever invent anything.  Also, in the first volume, at least, Sherry would tell Greene’s story and discuss his actions - major actions - without giving any indication about why Greene acted as he did.  Now, I know every human’s actions are ineffable, but when a man (who has converted to Catholicism, and eventually becomes one of the great Catholic writers) starts cheating on his wife, you expect something more than bald reportage.  It just seemed thin.

    However, the second volume (which discusses in great depth the great love affair of Greene’s life) has much more insight into the man and what drove him to act as he did (as well as a much more interesting plot, with the Second World War, and his time as a spy and his affairs, and many of his great novels), and when I was done with that I was eager to read the third.*  I think, unfortunately, the difference is that Greene died between the publishing of the first and second volumes, and that that freed Sherry up enough to allow him to breathe more life into his biography.  

   Look, I can’t in good conscience recommend you read this book - I’m not even really sure why I read it.  But if you think you might want to know a lot about Graham Greene, this is a pretty interesting biography.  But any reasonable person would wait for a one volume edition

Date/Place Completed:  October 2009 (Vol. 1), December 2009 (Vol. II), D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Book Resolutions


*I just ran out of time in 2009 to finish it!!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017