20 dic. 2010

Henry Green (A Post with Parentheses)

I've always been fond of the novels of Henry Green, especially Living, Loving, and Party-Going. Green described his style in a Paris Review interview as "non-representational." The novels seem mimetic (even conventional at time) on the surface, but are really very stylized modernist creations. Some of the later novels like Doting aren't as good (or at least I don't conserve a memory of them).

I discovered Green very early in life, when I found out that Ashbery had written a thesis on him and became curious. (I have the thesis in my office, in fact, sent to me by a friend of mine.) The appeal is partly snobbish, in that Green is not exactly a canonical author like Lawrence or Woolf. (A true snob like myself distinguishes himself by a devotion to minor writers that haven't been discovered by everyone else.) Novelists as different as Updike and Sorrentino admired Green's writing. (I remember asking Sorrentino once and getting an enthusiastic response.)

7 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...

Agreed -- I thought of mentioning him in response to your mainstream fiction post, though he really didn't fit. How about Barbara Pym? Even more mainstream, yet also poet-approved (by Joe Brainard, if I recall).

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, I read a Pym novel or three once. She's very good within what she does. It doesn't surprise me that Brainard would like her, because he spent the last years of his life reading novels.

Vance Maverick dijo...

OK, then how about a truly stuffy once-mainstream figure -- Anthony Powell? I've read through the big series at least twice, and it does something pretty magnificent.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, books do furnish a room. My dad was a big fan, and long ago I read that whole series of perfectly middle-brow fiction. The character of Widmerpool (spelling?) sticks in my mind.

Vance Maverick dijo...

I'll try not to take that the wrong way. ;-) Yes, Widmerpool, but there are lots more, and their recurrence is interesting.

Jonathan dijo...

He's kind of a middle-brow British Proust, as I remember him. Very well-written and amusing. A comedy of manners feel to it. That's just an accurate description, not a condemnation at all. My dad and his friends would have this one pretentious quote that they would repeat to each other. I got through the whole series so I know I enjoyed quite a bit of it. It's coming back to me know. Jenkins? I'm thinking the narrator is a self-effacing ineffectual chap named Nicholas? Jenkins and the whole series is called "A Dance to the Music of Time" in Proustian fashion. The characters recur. There is a woman who ends up improbably married to Widmerpool, the awkward social misfit who ends up triumphing through force of will.

The other thing I was reading around this time was The Alexandria Quartet.

Vance Maverick dijo...

You remember it right -- like Proust without the interior landscape, which is to say, since I don't love the society aspect of Proust, not much like him at all except in scale. (There's an encounter with the ghost of Proust's book, at the end of the war volumes.)