SORT OF LIFE by Graham Greene


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Mr. Greene's fractional biography -- his sort of life is only a part of a life up through the publication of his early, forgotten novels -- is a reproof of Auden's overreaching contention that "biographies of writers, whether written by others or themselves, are always superfluous and usually in bad taste." It is not superfluous since it prefigures, isolates, and supplements much of the material which will later be part of his works, and he is certainly most discreet in releasing this material from the "mortmain of the past." Greene, one of six children of a larger family divided between the rich Greenes and the intellectual Greenes, was a child of many fears and even stronger terrors. His father was a headmaster and he loathed being a student in that school -- "like the son of a quisling in a country under occupation." His marginal stability manifested itself at various intervals throughout the years: he was sent to an analyst at about sixteen; later in Oxford, while hoping to seduce a governess, he also flirted with a revolver over and over again. His first odd jobs led to a more permanent one with The Times but he was steadily writing a string of novels, unpublished, until finally The Man Within was accepted but success was tenuous for the next ten years. From the beginning he has made clear that he was "overshadowed by the knowledge of failure, by awareness of the flawed intention"; indeed hesitation, as well as candor, is implied in the title he has chosen. Perhaps it will not come on strongly enough for those who are not already among Graham Greene's admirers, but most readers will be gratified that he has searched his memory which is "like a long broken night.
Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1971
ISBN: 0671451987
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1971


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