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Henry Green (1) (1905–1973)

Autor(a) de Loving / Living / Party Going

Para outros autores com o nome Henry Green, ver a página de desambiguação.

16+ Works 3,950 Membros 86 Críticas 19 Favorited

About the Author

Writing under the pseudonym Henry Green, Henry Vincent Yorke kept his life as a wealthy industrialist separate from his literary persona. Although he had friends who were authors, he did not travel in literary circles and refused to be photographed, to protect his anonymity. Yorke was born in 1905 mostrar mais in Gloucestershire, England, and worked as a laborer before becoming managing director of a food engineering firm. From the publication of his first book Blindness (1926), which was begun when he was 17 years old and a student at Eton, he was admired for his unfailing sense of dialogue and characterization for all classes of British life. Green's last novel, Nothing, was published in 1950. Although he is still relatively unknown in the United States, he is recognized by authors such as John Updike and W. H. Auden as a masterful storyteller and one of the greatest English writers of the 20th century. He died in 1973 (Bowker Author Biography) mostrar menos
Image credit: Christopher Stine for
Black Lamb

Obras por Henry Green

Loving / Living / Party Going (1929) 840 exemplares
Loving (1945) 717 exemplares
Back (1946) 324 exemplares
Party Going (1939) 299 exemplares
Blindness (1926) 264 exemplares
Living (1929) 226 exemplares
Caught (1952) 224 exemplares
Concluding (1948) 211 exemplares
Nothing (1950) 200 exemplares
Nothing • Doting • Blindness (1926) 186 exemplares
Doting (1952) 174 exemplares
Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait (1940) 160 exemplares
Caught • Back • Concluding (1803) 22 exemplares

Associated Works

New Writing and Daylight : Summer 1943 — Contribuidor — 2 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum



Long before Seinfeld came along with the show about nothing there were modernist writers writing novels about nothing. The plotless novel, bereft of much in the way of story, depends instead on a focus on daily life and psychological states, and a demanding experimentalist mode of writing sure to trip up less talented authors. Thankfully Henry Green was not one of these, as evidenced by the application of that trite phrase “a writer’s writer” one can find applied to him in various articles and essays.

Party Going is about a group of people stuck at a train station for a few hours due to heavy fog - a concept famously ripped off by Seinfeld in the episode where the characters are stuck at a mall parking garage because they can’t remember where they parked (but maybe Jerry Seinfeld didn’t, in fact, adopt the idea from Henry Green, who am I to say). These are terrible, shallow people, much like their later parking garage stranded brethren. Where they differ, however, is in their being much higher up in social class, and in being much more boring.

Green’s second novel, Living (Party Going was his third), focused on the working class of Birmingham, people like those who worked in Green’s family owned factory. For my money those characters were far more worth reading about than these ones who inhabit a moneyed class like Green himself. Trying to survive the daily grind is simply more interesting than trying to figure out who sent a letter to a newspaper about a socialite missing an embassy party he wasn’t actually invited to.

So this became a novel for me that was not that easy to want to resume reading. What rewards it gave were to be found in the prose construction, which is top notch - Green was, in reality, a writer’s writer. Here’s how the novel begins:
Fog was so dense, bird that had been disturbed went flat into a balustrade and slowly fell, dead, at her feet.

The driving rhythm of that sentence I find remarkable and most enjoyable! Could be up there with my favorite opening lines of any novel I’ve read (Lolita’s, not that you asked, are my best ever). What follows from there is a bunch of nonsense described most exquisitely. If I had to lay out one passage as evidence that this book is worth reading despite all the nonsense, I think it would be this one, describing the moment the artificial lights in the station’s waiting area turn on above the massed crowd of delayed passengers:

Fog burdened with night began to roll into this station striking cold through thin leather up into their feet where in thousands they stood and waited. Coils of it reached down like women’s long hair reached down and caught their throats and veiled here and there what they could see, like lovers’ glances. A hundred cold suns switched on above found out these coils where, before the night joined in, they had been smudges and looking up at two of them above was like she was looking down at you from under long strands hanging down from her forehead only that light was cold and these curls tore at your lungs.

Good Lord that’s good.
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lelandleslie | 8 outras críticas | Feb 24, 2024 |
Henry Green was a terrorist. That’s in the words of the contemporaneous French critic Jean Paulhan, describing those writers of the day who fought what they saw as the looseness, the drabness, the unsuitability of the current language (French as well as English). The critic and writer Philip Toynbee described this person thusly in a 1949 article: “The Terrorists are those writers who confront their language as a wrestler confronts his adversary, knowing that they must twist it and turn it, squeeze it into strange shapes and make it cry aloud, before they can finally bring it to the boards.”

Personally, I’m usually up for some interesting linguistic terrorism. Living was Green’s second novel, and it is a resident of the Modernist foothills around Mount Joyce. Its particular contribution to the insurgency is to blow up the definite article. Thus you get, to begin the novel:
Two o’clock. Thousands came back from dinner along streets.
“What we want is go, push,” said works manager to son of Mr Dupret. “What I say to them is - let’s get on with it, let’s get the stuff out.”
Thousands came back to factories they worked in from their dinners.
Noises of lathes working began again in this factory. Hundreds went along road outside, men and girls. Some turned in to Dupret factory.

Green later in life remarked that he did not think this approach quite successful, and thought it sounded too affected. However I think it does draw your attention to the language and words in a more intense way, as your brain notes it is different from regular speech and writing and thus your attention can’t merely glide along as usual. More focus must be paid on the level of the individual sentence. The contrasting viewpoint is expressed succinctly by Toynbee again, who while in league with Green’s motivation, remarked that “the” is “both an innocent and a useful word, and to concentrate so heavy a gun against it seems a curious misdirection of this writer’s fire-power.”

There’s much more to Living than matters of language, however. The plot, as suggested by the opening, concerns working class life in 1920s industrial England, specifically Birmingham. Christopher Isherwood called it the best proletarian novel written, which caused Green to humbly quip in wonder how familiar with proletarian life Isherwood actually was.

I found it to focus more, against my expectations, on interpersonal relations and family life among its subjects, as opposed to the conditions and details of work inside the industrial factories. There is some of that, to be sure, but it’s a more universal novel in reality, dealing with the emotional and imaginative facets and challenges of human nature, which, come to think of it, is indeed appropriate for a novel with the simple title of “Living”.

With a wide cast of characters, Lily Gates is the one most central in my view, a young woman who never sets foot in a factory. Living a constrained life taking care of the men in her household, she escapes in her mind into dreams and fantasies, fed by the movies that she goes to see, ultimately grasping hopefully at the one chance she sees to make her escape a reality through a love affair with Bert Jones, a factory worker with a vague plan to emigrate to Canada. The following passage I think gives a good sense of the universal human emotion the novel deals with, in its peculiar linguistic construction:

She came nearer street lamps and then stumbled a little. Looking up she saw them, light sticking out from them, and as she came nearer so night left, excitement effervescent in her she put coat straight, and felt cold. When she stepped into cone of light of this lamp, night was outside and it might not have been night-time.
She met Bert at corner.
They kissed. Her warmth and his, their bodies straining against each other, became one warmth. Walking, his arm round her enclosed her warmth and his. So it came from his veins flowing into hers, so they were joined.
They walked from cone of light into darkness and then again into lamplight, nor, so their feeling lulled them, was light or dark, only their feeling of both of them which was one warmth, infinitely greater.

I love that passage. Ultimately this novel may not be perfect but it is a great and interesting contribution to literature.
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lelandleslie | 5 outras críticas | Feb 24, 2024 |
Richard said that although he had knocked about the world a bit himself he had never come across anything quite like the London Fire Service.

During the run-up to WW2 over 20,000 people were recruited into London’s Auxiliary Fire Service, outnumbering regular firefighters by about 10-1. Stations were set up in buildings all through the city for them to live and work from. Regular firefighters were thrust into training and leadership roles over all these new recruits. And yet for a year after the outbreak of war there was little for them to do. The expected German bombings didn’t materialize, and civilians looked upon them scornfully as army-dodgers.

It is in this setting which Green sets Caught. The central character of Richard Roe is based on Green himself, raised upper-class in the country, now a wealthy London businessman, who takes up a role among the working class men and women of London’s AFS - the other auxiliaries, the two regular firemen attached to their unit, the cooks who make all their meals. In their lengthy idleness Green thrusts the reader into their gossip, their petty workplace politics, their personal family difficulties, and their main diversion of drinking and chasing women.

‘But I say,’ he said, ‘I wonder how many of these people here are going to bed together later?’
‘I don’t know, Dickie,’ she replied brightly, thinking I’m sure most of them are. But you aren’t, not with him my dear, she told herself, oh dear no, because it makes you quite sick to think of it with him, though you know what you are, after a few drinks, but not even then, she concluded, knowing she probably lied again.

This is a far cry from painting the London AFS as it was seen by the time of the novel’s publication in 1943, after the Blitz had happened, after hundreds of these firefighters had died battling the flames caused by German bombers, after they had come to be seen as heroes. Green’s publisher insisted on altering and censoring parts of the novel to try to show the characters in a better light, such as by making Roe a widower, given his affair with a young woman serving as a cook with the unit. But now thankfully we have the novel as Green intended it to read.

Green does not make his novels all that easy to read, in fact. His style is a bit peculiar, with unexpected sentence constructions and not immediately clear subjects and references. Every now and then in Caught I’d wince at a sentence that doesn’t seem to work, but these are far, far outnumbered by, in slight retrospect, impressive ones.

Take this bit for example, in which Green describes a store from which Richard’s young son was briefly taken by the mentally ill sister of the fireman serving as Roe’s station chief. Richard has gone to visit the scene of the crime for himself and looks at a toy fire truck:

The walls of this store being covered with stained glass windows which depicted trading scenes, that is of merchandise being loaded on to galleons, the leaving port, of incidents on the voyage, and then the unloading, all brilliantly lit from without, it follows that the body of the shop was inundated with colour, brimming, and this colour, as the sea was a predominant part of each window, was a permanence of sapphire in shopping hours. Pink neon lights on the high ceiling wore down this blue to some extent, made customers’ faces less aggressively steeped in the body of the store, but enhanced, or deepened that fire brigade scarlet to carmine, and, in so doing, drugged Richard’s consciousness.

It may accurately be said that the effect of Green’s wordy complex prose, in the right mood, will also have a certain consciousness-altering effect on the reader. If not in the right mood, the reader may instead drop the book in frustration. I found myself reading this novel in both moods, depending on when I picked it up.

Choosing to write a novel about the London AFS but largely ignoring that time it spent actually fighting fires during bombing raids, until a few pages at the novel’s end, is an interesting choice. That’s Green though - a writer of dialogue and internal psychological states, not a writer of action and thrills.
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lelandleslie | 5 outras críticas | Feb 24, 2024 |
Henry Green’s debut novel, published in 1926 when he was 21 years old and a student at Oxford, is a remarkably mature work. One may not suspect this at first superficial glance of the plot summary - a young man is blinded in an accident and adjusts to life without sight, pretty obvious symbolism opportunity there! - and the titles of the novel’s three parts: Caterpillar, Chrysalis, Butterfly. I’d suspect a pretty simplistic book just knowing those three factors (first novel, plot, reductive outline). But in fact it’s not a simple text at all, and while not exactly Green’s mature style it provides some hints of it.

Primarily I’m thinking here of Green’s avowed intent to take the author out of the picture and just present the reader with what can be seen and heard directly, and to make his or her own meaning from it, which reached an apogee with a couple of nearly all-dialogue novels. Green hasn’t got there yet of course at this point, but dialogue like this, using spoken language between characters instead of authorial narration to suggest something about a character’s state of mind, bears a resemblance:

“I was to lead a public life of the greatest possible brilliance. It is different now.”
“How wonderful that would be.”
“You know what I mean? One planned everything out on a broad scale, remembering little scraps of flattery that someone or other had been so good as to throw one and building on that. One was so hungry for flattery. The funny thing is that when one goes blind life goes on just the same, only half of it is lopped off.”
“One would think that life would stop, wouldn’t you? But it always goes on, goes on, and that is rather irritating.”

This novel’s central character, John, also shares Green’s attitude in respects of the reader forming meaning. The fictional John is, like the real Green, at the very start of his writing career and sees his his role not as dictating meaning directly but allowing the reader to form it:

He would write about these things, for life was only beginning again, and there were many things to say. Besides, one couldn’t for ever be sitting in a chair like this, and be for the rest of one’s life someone to be sorry for. And perhaps the way he saw everything was the right way, though there could be no right way but one’s own. Art was what created in the looker-on, and he would have to try and create in others.

What Green would get rid of in later novels was lots of descriptive prose, which approach may have its interest and virtues, but when Green is capable or writing prose like this about a waning day before age 21, one can’t help imagining it as a loss:

The air began to get rid of the heaviness, and so became fresher as the dew soaked the grass. A blackbird thought aloud of bed, and was followed by another and then another. The sun was flooding the sky in waves of colour while he grew redder and redder in the west, the trees were a red gold too where he caught them. The sky was enjoying herself after the boredom of being blue all day. She was putting on and rejecting yellow for gold, gold for red, then red for deeper reds, while the blue that lay overhead was green. A cloud of starlings flew by to roost with a quick rush of wings, and sleepy rooks cawed. Far away a man whistled on his way home.

… (mais)
lelandleslie | 10 outras críticas | Feb 24, 2024 |



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Associated Authors

John Updike Introduction
Sebastian Faulks Introduction
Daniel Kleinman Cover artist
Edward Gorey Cover designer
Jeremy Treglown Introduction
Leonard Rosoman Cover artist
Michael Gorra Introduction
Alan Ross Introduction
Sebastian Yorke Introduction
Sylvia Frezzolini Cover designer


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