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SURVIVING by Henry Green

SURVIVING

The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green

By Henry Green

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-80476-2
Publisher: Viking

 Who knows that it won't be Henry Green (1905-73), not Joyce or Woolf, that history finally will favor as the greatest English prose-extender of the century? For mysteriousness, fidelity both to complex sensation and simple speech, humane comedy, and what John Updike in the introduction here perfectly encapsulates as ``marvellous originality, intuition, sensuality, and finish,'' Green's novels are almost without equal. And yet by 1952, with Doting, he was done--to live out another 20 years as a businessman, then retiree: an eerie coda, largely of silence. But from the whole career, his grandson now has collected what scraps, rejected work, and bit-journalism he did (along with the amazing Paris Review interview he gave in 1958 to Terry Southern). There are some minor fiction drafts here (a trying-out of the articleless prose of Living; a 1927 sketch describing a swarm of starlings that seems a premonition of the great birds-in-a-tree passage in the much later Concluding). But most interesting may be Green's ever modest insistences, in the occasional article or book review, on fiction as a ``non-representational art,'' ``life which is not''--an art of misapprehension, mistake, mishearing: an antidote to the imperialism of authorial direction more convincing than the French deconstructionism of later decades. And, in a 1961 chiding of fiction critics, there's this jewel: ``Living one's own life can be a great muddle, but the great writers do not make it plain, they palliate, and put the whole in a sort of proportion. Which helps; and on the whole, year after year, help is what one needs.'' No Green fan will want to be without it. (First serial rights to Antaeus, Conjunctions, Grand Street, Missouri Review, Paris Review, and Story)