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Loving ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (89)

    Kingsley Amis remarked of Green's autobiography Pack My Bag that the modulations and rhythms
    of the prose gave the impression that the author was drunk whilst writing it; Green's sometime close
    friend Anthony Powell commented that the reason for this was that the author probably was drunk
    at the time.
           -Regarding Henry by Matthew Peters

    He has been called a "writer's writer," and even, according to Terry Southern, "a writer's-writer's
           -Writer's-Writer's Writer (David Lodge, NY Review of Books)

The inclusion of this book on the Top 100 list is completely mystifying.  Surely it was not selected for it's comedic effects, everything PG Wodehouse ever wrote is much funnier.  And it can't have been selected because of the portrayal of the relationship between servants and masters, because "The Remains of the Day" is infinitely better.  In all likelihood, it was selected because the panel assumed that people like Anthony Burgess and John Updike, who love Green, knew something that they didn't, much as the Emperor deferred to the courtiers who told him they loved his new clothes.

Memo to myself: next time you pick up a book by an author who is described as a "writer's writer's writer",  put the book down & pick up a pen, then shove the pen into your eye; it's not any less enjoyable and it's quicker.


Grade: (D)


Henry Green Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Henry Green
    -ESSAY: An off-kilter visionary: Henry Green had a strange and distinctive talent (Alexander Larman, March 2023, The Critic

Book-related and General Links:
    -Regarding Henry (Matthew Peters, Varsity Online)
    -Interview with a Grand Guy: Terry Southern who befriended Green (by Lee Hill (biographer))
    -REVIEW: of Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green edited by Matthew Yorke  Writer's-Writer's Writer (David Lodge,  NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of PACK MY BAG A Self-Portrait. By Henry Green (Hugh Kenner, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of ROMANCING: The Life and Work of Henry Green by Jeremy Treglown  (DJ Taylor, Sunday Times of London)
    -REVIEW : of Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green by Jeremy Treglown (Lorna Sage, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of  Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green edited by Matthew Yorke (Brooke Allen, New Criterion)


I disagree with your opinion about Green and think, in any case, that it would be unavaliling to attempt to dissuade you from your view, particularly with your pen stuck in your eye. (Laughingly: Your father would not have approved of your lack of restraint in tossing Green.)

- Harry Reynolds

- Jan-07-2006, 23:08


"Loving" is at first sight rather trivial, but there are several aspects that provoke questions. Who is the narrator? The book is written with a very limited vocabulary and a curious grammatical style - obsessive use of "that" and "this" - clearly not Green himself, nor an observer with any advanced intellectual capacities. There are, however, a few very imaginative creations of atmosphere. It is possible that Green was attempting to put himself, as raconteur, in the place of a person of very limited access to knowledge, untrained in associative processes and with little mental furniture, rather like writing a book in the persona of an ill-educated celebrity-obsessed modern teenager. Who was the book written for? It would clearly be of no interest to the peers of the assumed narrator, and although it leaves a definite and uneasy impression it is not aimed at the self-assumed "clever" audience for whom Powell was deliberately writing. It is a very idiosyncratic piece, which is probably worth reassessing after looking at others' reviews.

- Charles Vine

- Jan-17-2005, 19:11