Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Portable Graham Greene

I'm taking this book at its literal word -- well, at least its title. This book, edited by Philip Stratford and published in the early 1970s, long before Graham Greene died, is my new train reading. I tend to avoid long books for my morning commute, if for no other reason than they're heavy and I have enough in my stuffed briefcase than I already need; a book, however, is a necessity.

Anyway, Greene is one of those writers I've meant to read and never have. One of my favorite movies of all time is Orson Welles' The Third Man, which is based on a Greene novel and for which Greene wrote the screenplay. Two of the key themes in that work, and as I'm discovering, in much of his work, are borders and betrayal. I'm not going to go into a dissertation here about my thoughts on that, now. (though I'm sure it would be enthralling ;-)

But the sense of betrayal and of fragile communities are themes I explore in my own work. Plus, Greene was originally known as a Catholic writer, which is also a topic (Catholicism, that is) that I explore, at least in the one novel I've completed. So it was only a matter of time before I ventured into Greene's land.

This morning, while sipping at bland coffee, I read a description that caught my attention and which seems appropos for this day and age:

How can life on a border be other than restless? You are pulled by different ties of hate and love. For hate is quite as powerful a tie: it demands allegiance. In the land of skyscrapers, of stone stairs and cracked bells ringing early, one was aware of fear and hate, a kind of lawlessness -- appalling cruelties could be practised without a second thought; one met for the first time characters, adult and adolescent, who bore about them the genuine quality of evil.

Captivating stuff! I'm going to let that sink in before writing about it, but I think I'm going to enjoy going Greene.

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