Letters To The Press
Greene's letters to editors, unlike those of Evelyn Waugh or Bernard Shaw, seldom trade on the author's public figure--but are most fun when they do, as when Greene wins prizes for his pseudonymous entries in newspaper contests based on parodies of Graham Greene. (He later cannibalized two of the parodies for his own work.) Greene was a former sub-editor of The Times and when ending his four-year stint there was told that, if he stayed and were patient, he might well become correspondence editor. Greene later said that if he had stayed, "my whole life would have been changed disastrously for the better." For American readers, though, he will be most readable here when defending his cuts in Shaw for Otto Preminger's film St. Joan, and when standing up for rights of British audiences to see Pygmalion when a ten-year ban on the play was put in force to keep My Fair Lady on the boards. Other lively moments arise when he takes on journalists who misquote or falsify his words during interviews (but does anyone really remember the Penelope Gilliatt brouhaha in The New Yorker?). He is most sharp-tongued about US foreign policy in Central America and the Far East. Also of interest are his bouts with censors, especially the BBC, which wanted nine cuts in his play The Complaisant Lovers. Greene took this as censorship, but the BBC said it was to bring the play in at 90 minutes broadcast time. He also often defends himself against unfair statements about his Catholicism. Many of his political letters, however, will be of small interest to American readers of his fiction. Less waspish than Waugh, less brilliant than Shaw.