The more I read my Kindle (birthday gift in March, used for my utilitarian reading - ie crime and modern literature but am still intending to buy lots of books in paper form), the more I hanker after delicate colourful first edition books.
Even Graham Greene, a relatively serious man, had to conform with design norms of the time. Hence this book cover with its lurid 1950's style, just the thing to read attired in this:
During a period of leave from work some years ago, I developed a low level obsession with Graham Greene. My problem is that when I decide I like a writer I feel compelled to read all their works. That's fine if it is Jonathan Safran Foer (only two novels and one work of non-fiction to read). But with Mr Greene, there are at least 30 to wade through. So the writer and I had a quite long relationship although I found I couldn't quite get through his entire oeuvre.
And I am not proud of this, because although he is a magnificent writer, he is heavy going and his books tend to be very guilt ridden. I felt like life was almost too much to bear at the end of my Greene fest and even converting to Catholicism wouldn't save me.
On the lighter side, what diversity he shows.
To summarise the Nation:
A stranger with no shortage of calling cards: devout Catholic, lifelong adulterer, pulpy hack, canonical novelist; self-destructive, meticulously disciplined, deliriously romantic, bitterly cynical; moral relativist, strict theologian, salon communist, closet monarchist; civilized to a stuffy fault and louche to drugged-out distraction, anti-imperialist crusader and postcolonial parasite, self-excoriating and self-aggrandizing, to name just a few.
Add to that: suicidal, bi-polar, writer of screenplays, and a man with quite a good sense of humour (he once entered a competition for Greene parody short stories and came second).
There is a book for every occasion: having an adulterous affair? Go to the End of the Affair. Feeling Spylike? Turn to the Third Man. Stuck in a train with a chatty old lady? Read Travels with my Aunt. Feeling an existential Catholic crisis coming on? Try the Power and the Glory.
I raise this because I have found from this bookseller in Bangkok a number of first editions for sale, including my second favourite Greene, the End of the Affair (for $250).
For this, I recommend something fitted:
Not my favourite Greene however. My favourite is:
Set in Sierra Leone it tells the story of Scobie, adulterer, potentially corrupt policeman trying valiantly to keep law and order, and save his marriage whilst reconciling the things he does with his religious beliefs.
This book was chosen by Time in 2005 as one of the Top 100 books from 1923 to date. We may think scathing reviews are a product of the modern time. Well - George Orwell wrote a review of this book in the New Yorker in 1949 which you can read here, and made this comment after summarising the plot:
'I have not parodied the plot of this book. Even when dressed up with realistic details it is just as ridiculous as it sounds'.
And today, in a world where we have to tell everyone what we think, all the time, endlessly, blurting out truths to no avail, I rather like this observation by Mr Greene:
In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.
(Images: (2) Corbis.com (5) bkkbooks.com (6) mistermartha.blogspot.com)