3.5 stars This is Graham Greene's first memoir, the second being "Ways of Escape" (Vintage 2002), in which I enjoyed reading 40 years ago. 165) And some of his interesting anecdotes: In my dream I found a book for which I had long been searching on a particular shelf, and so in the morning, before I had breakfast, I walked down the street to see whether my dream might prove true. and walk down Charing Cross Road looking at the second-hand books. 94) Time since I left Oxford had moved slowly as the unemployed bands of those days, shifting, with hands spread out, along a pavement edge: the British-American Tobacco Company, the tutoring in the Pennies, the long evening hours on the Journal with little to do, the five hundred words a day on a novel which I was half aware belonged to the past and would never be published.
Greene eventually worked for MI6 in the 30s (though this volume ends in 1929).
Even looking back at it all as an old man, Greene still seems to regard both himself and his accomplishments in those early days as failures on myriad different levels, taking a distinct lack of pride in any of his early work.
Despite pretty constant morbidity (typical Greene) it falls on the lighter side of his work and, like any of his novels or short stories, gave me even more insight into his character.
"As I write, it is as though I am waking from sleep continually to grasp at an image which I hope may drag in its wake a whole intact dream, but the fragments remain fragments, the complete story always escape." I like how Greene describes how we try to make sense of things (Didion once similarly described nonfiction as the 'imposition of a narrative line on disparate images'): " And the motive for recording these scraps of the past?
The last chapter is recommended reading for anyone who intends to pursue writing full-time.
While there is something cringy about the way that this book serves a very personal look into the life of Greene, especially his youth, it is certainly a great deal more lively and more enjoyable than many of his works, even if it demonstrates the sort of cynicism that one would expect directed at himself. The book does include some rich details of the sort that readers of Greene's life will appreciate, including the importance of his schooling, his struggle with bipolar disorder that led him to play Russian Roulette several times with his brother's pistol, his hopeless crush on his younger siblings' engaged governess that led him to write some truly dreadful poetry that publicly embarrassed her because it was read on the radio, and his years of bullying at the hands of a classmate. This book is no romanticized look at the life and upbringing of an author, but given the writings of Graham Greene, should we expect anything like that from him?
Greene had summarized his memoir early in the book and thus anticipated any possible criticisms of incompleteness: "Memory is like a long broken night.
Graham Greene provides a frank history of his early years up to the time of his first successful novel, The Man Within, and the immediate aftermath of failure and then the legal problems arising out of Stamboul Train. The book itself is filled with passages expressing wit, irony, melancholy, excitement, and failure, all reflective of the somewhat troubled and manic-depressive life of Greene. And he describes what amounts to a guideline for writing that rejected the imitative failures he produced for Doubleday and Hienemann following the surprise success of The Man Within. It is some twenty years later, and Greene remarks upon the man's once promising career as a poet, which he allowed to slip away because of initial failures, leading to his exile in Siam.
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world.