An acute discussion of Graham Greene and Francois Mauriac in which the two novelists pair off on similarities and differences and then receive individual treatment, work by work, theme by theme. The procedure is deftly handled, with the centrality of Catholic commitment serving as cornerstone. Though the two come from markedly opposite cultures, they complement each other in many respects. Both are atmospheric: Mauriac's Bordeaux countryside with its dumpy, doom laden settings, and Greene's international locales, full of a seedy exoticism. Both are obsessional, with groupings of saintly sinners: M's warped bourgeois, G's outcast cosmopolitans. Both employ second-rate forms- G the thriller, M the roman noir- to highly sophisticated effect. And both are, of course, psychological, almost to a sinister degree. But whereas M's style and sense of life is Racinian- spare and somber- G's is a mixture of Conrad and James, with ironic, mutely modernistic, quasi-humorous vertones. The theological notion of Grace is essential to both, only G's characters often seem imprisoned with it or by it, while M's is at once more fundamental and more free. Mauriac emerges as the deeper of the two. There are brilliant readings of all the novels, and also of the randomly- produced plays (another similarity), and pertinent biographical references. More partisan than ""critical,"" it is nevertheless a thoroughgoing, fresh and far-ranging work.