Book Heaven

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Graham Greene

I've been kind of proud of myself for having resisted Norman Sherry's biography of Graham Greene. Over the years I've picked up the three volumes that comprise this work (the first volume came out in 1989, the second in 1994, and the third was just published), and though I was somewhat tempted, I ultimately returned it to the shelf each time. Maybe it was the thought of how much time I'd have to invest in it, or maybe I was just waiting until it was finished. I'm afraid now that my resolve to avoid this work has weakened somewhat.

On November 4th, Dinitia Smith published an article in The New York Times -- Graham Greene Biography, Heavy on Sex, Draws Some Outrage. Now, in truth, it wasn't really the sex part that caught my attention, though admittedly it was kind of hard to avoid it. It seems that Graham's relatives are none too pleased about some of Sherry's disclosures regarding Greene's sex life, the most notorious of which is evidently a list of forty seven prostitutes that Greene had sex with. No, it wasn't the sex that captured my attention, but rather the thought that Sherry spent a virtual career (thirty years) on this 2,251 page biography, an obsessive quest that certainly took a heavy toll on Sherry's life. In researching the writing of Graham's books, Sherry followed in his footsteps, contracting exotic illnesses almost every step of the way. In the article , Sherry is quoted as saying, " I almost destroyed myself. By the time I had finished, my life had been taken from me."

Sufficiently intrigued, I went back and read Paul Theroux's favorable review in the October 17, 2004 The New York Times Book Review. In Damned Old Graham Greene, Theroux had this to say: "For anyone interested in Greene's life and work, this three-volume biography is incomparable; as an intellectual and political history of the 20th century it is invaluable; as a literary journey, as well as a journey across the world, it is masterly; as a source book and rogue's gallery it is fascinating." Theroux's review too is a masterpiece and now there is little doubt that this three volume work will soon end up on my bookshelf. I only hope I can avoid Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James which Theroux compares the Greene work to. Only time will tell.


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