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I have not read a book by Graham Greene. Which one should I read first?

The Heart of the Matter, or The End of the Affair.


Not having read Affair but having read the other three that Janet describes as the Catholic novels, I'd vote for Heart of the Matter. Theological considerations aside, I found it the most vivid story.

I have only read The Power and the Glory, Janet. And unfortunately read it before I converted to Catholicism. It is at home in my collection, along with some others that you mention. It deserves a re-read, and the others must have been waiting for me to be Catholic. Greene is someone I'm always meaning to get to. Great post and insights into the novels!

I've read The Power and the Glory (decades ago) and Mosignor Quixote (Just last year). I can't say I cared for Quixote. Too preachy, you might say. I remember being moved by Power.

The Third Man is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. I was delighted when I watched it to learn from the credits that it was by Graham Greene. I'm also always delighted by anything Orson Welles is in.

Ok will try

Hey, Mac. How about doing 52 recipes next year?

If someone else will do all 52 of them. Well, 51--I think I did post something that could technically be called a recipe for eggnog and coffee plus bourbon.

How about 52 Cats? 52 Dogs? 52 Funny Things Douglas Adams Wrote? 52 Unmatched Socks?

How about 52 Sarcastic Comments?

By Jove I think she's got it!

52 Things That Seemed Like A Good Idea At the Time

See, only 49 left.


I take it you didn't like my idea....

I saw the TV production of Monsignor Quixote with Alec Guinness and liked it, but I never read the book. The story was based on Greene's friendship with a Spanish priest, Father Leopoldo Duran, with whom Greene took driving trips through Spain each year. And it was Father Duran who officiated at Greene's funeral and burial in Switzerland.

This report in the Guardian about the funeral seems to show there was some belief still left in Greene:

In the pulpit Father Duran acknowledged briefly that Thomas the Doubter had been one of Greene's lifelong names for himself. But the priest went on to leave no single hairline of doubt in his sermon. He told the congregation that to avoid misinterpretation it was important to make clear the 86-year-old novelist, who died last Wednesday, had taken the initiative in calling him to his bedside: "I told him most directly, 'Graham, God is waiting for you just now - pray for us where you will be for ever in God's blessing. I now give the last absolution.'

"This I did. He passed away in the most peaceful manner. Without a gesture, he fell asleep. My faith tells me that he is now with God or on the way there." Mr Carleton Greene, the author's nephew, said afterwards that he did not think anybody in the family would mind the certitude of Father Durand's remarks. "After all it was Graham, who knew what kind of priest he was, who asked him to come."

Interesting. I sure hope there was some belief left in him.

Nothing wrong with your idea, Robert, but it is pretty far afield for this blog, and it just got me started thinking about other possible 52s--cats and dogs were half-serious, then I got silly.

I wouldn't actually want to do the 52 recipes, though. I'm not much interested in cooking myself, although I'm extremely interested in eating, and would not want to invest the time. Maybe do it on your blog?

Didn't Grumpy suggest 52 Movies as another possibility? I like that. Probably we wouldn't have as much trouble filling the slots.

Thank you Marianne. I am really glad to see this. I have been praying for GG because I found much in the books that was troubling, and there's nothing much comforting in anything I read online.


I think we could do the 52 Movies easily. I also have been thinking about something else that may or may not be a good idea, and we could either do it alone or in concert with the 52 Movies. What if we picked 12 movies to talk about. We would have one for each month, and everyone would try to watch the movie by the first of the month even if they had seen it before. Maybe eleven movies. I'm sure December would be a bust.


I just figured 52 record would be a lot easier than 52 authors or movies or whatever. :)

Just to know that Greene called a priest--what a consolation that is.

The thing is, he may have, on a conscious level, been a doubter, in fact he most certainly was, but there must have been someplace in his heart that was free from doubt because he drew such truth from the well of his heart in his writing.

I really hate having these two conversations--51 whatevers and Greene--mixed together like this. It's disconcerting.


"The Third Man is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. I was delighted when I watched it to learn from the credits that it was by Graham Greene."

Do you know 'The Fallen Idol,' Robert? Another great film scripted by Greene, and made by the same director, Carol Reed.

I haven't heard of "The Fallen Idol." What is it about?

It's about a young boy who idolizes his family's butler, but when he witnesses him commit what may be a crime, the boy tries to protect him, and causes bigger trouble in the process.

What about 52 saints (writing up saints we have particular devotions to or have derived inspiration from)? Too pi?

I think if I'm going to do something next year it will be movies. As I mentioned, I seem to remember Grumpy (or someone) suggesting this, and I do like the idea. I don't want to do another thing where it will be touch and go, or possibly yet touch and stop, as to whether the entire 52 will actually materialize. It's a bit compulsive of me, but having said there would be 52, I will feel it as a significant failure if there aren't. I can't personally make up a very large shortfall of authors (as I've said before, it probably should have been books, not authors), but with movies I could in a pinch probably manage at least half of them, at least to the tune of a couple of paragraphs or so. But with saints I wouldn't feel that I could supply very many without doing a lot more research than I would want to put into it. Maybe year after next, if we do something next year and it goes well.

And now I want to say something about Graham Greene, specifically about Brighton Rock.

This is a 40-year-old impression, and may not be accurate. Not only was it a long time ago that I read the book, but I was not a Catholic or any kind of Christian at the time, so I probably missed some things.

But at any rate: if I remember correctly, there is an ordinary middle-class woman who is instrumental in bringing Pinkie down, and it seemed to me that Greene distinctly preferred Pinkie to her. Pinkie was treated as having a noble purity in his evil that was superior to this woman's crude solid normality. It seemed that the author was almost disgusted by her. I thought that was sort of perverse. I can see now, reading your description (Janet), what Greene was actually doing, but if I were to read the book again I might still find that aspect of it a little sick.

My vote is for 52 movies

I just wrote a really long answer to this and somehow hit something on the computer that closed the browser before I posted it. URGH

I felt that I should write something about the woman, Ida, but I just didn’t have room and I didn’t want to leave anything else out.

Ida strikes me a sort of zaftig pagan goddess. She is a goddess of sex, drink and good living, but she is also a goddess of retribution. She uses a Ouija board to help her find the murderer of Fred, a man she only knew briefly. She is relentless in her pusuit and knows no mercy, only justice. Of course, if anyone doesn’t deserve mercy, it’s Pinkie.

Pinkies, on the other hand, has a Catholic morality even though he’s rebelling against it. He knows right and wrong and he chooses wrong. He is an aesthete. He doesn’t drink; he is celibate; and his room is a sort of monk’s cell. His marital relationship to Rose (and I’m fairly positive that her name is a reference to Mary), illicit though it is, could lead Pinkie to repentance and a moral life if he would only cooperate.

Greene is almost certainly setting up a contrast between paganism and Christianity, but on which he comes down is beyond me, and maybe beyond him. Perhaps this was the battleground of Greene’s own life.

One thing that puzzles me and that I wish I could figure out is the Brighton Rock. Someplace near the end of the book, Rose and Pinkie are eating the candy and Rose says something about it being the same all the way through. I know this is significant. I don’t know why.


Oh, and the whole book has a sick kind of feeling.


I believe I said I didn't like it, but it was good anyway.


52 movies was my idea. And i was thinking just the same today, that you have 1000s of old posts to use in the event of a shortfall

Not only that, but I would find it pretty easy to dash off at least a couple of paragraphs about most any movie that I found at all interesting.

"the whole book has a sick kind of feeling"

Yeah, I think I felt a little that way, and maybe focused on the portrayal of Ida (I had of course forgotten that name) in an effort to explain the sick feeling. I mean apart from the kid walking around with a bottle of sulfuric acid. I didn't have the vocabulary for it at the time, but now I see that part of what bothered me was the suggestion of Manicheanism, with Pinkie the spiritual (and therefore superior) and Ida the material (and therefore inferior).

When I looked up Brighton Rock to find a bit of caption for the picture, and read about the name going all the way through, it struck me that maybe Greene meant it as a metaphor for the baptismal grace that marked Pinkie and Rose.

Baptismal grace--that makes sense. I was thinking it referred to just Pinkie, and now I see it's probably both of them. And rock.

I didn't think about the spiritual/material difference before, but yes.


In the 1950s, when people were uptight about designations like 'catholic novel', some people called Greene a gnostic.

I do not have an opinion since I have not read any of his novels. I always mean to but dont get there

He himself did not want to be known as a Catholic novelist.

Thinking about this at 2 AM, it occurred to me that it's Pinkie's move into the material that could have been his redemption, so I don't think Greene is saying that the spiritual is superior. Pinkie probably was Manichean in a way. I suspect that his desire to cut and maim and kill came from a hatred of the body, and his redemption could have been a love for the body.

I didn't get out of bed to post this, though. ;-) My body would have objected.



Your body is smart.

Allowing for the possible inaccuracy of my memory, I don't think it was so much Greene *saying* that the spiritual was superior as a sort of aesthetic bias in that direction. If that's correct, it speaks well of Greene as a Catholic that he resolved the situation as he did, against (maybe) his natural impulses.

I'm very surprised that you haven't read Greene, Grumpy. Seems like it would have been almost inevitable for you.

Do you remember how he resolved it?


Well, I remember a major event at the end, which maybe we should not discuss in detail since others have not read it. But all I really meant by "resolved" there was what you said about his redemption by movement into the material.



I mean, you obviously understand my confusion and have cleared it up.


I know

I have nothing further to add to this post but Mac told me how to do italics so I want to test it.

That way lies madness.


It is like sin, Janet. Only Mac is God. You offend, he fixes it.

Glad we have that straight.


I like the way this conversation is going.

I like knowing that someone will fix my mistakes and I don't have to do it.


Maclin I sent you number 40 for the series by way of Facebook but I just remembered you are using it less. I will look and see if my computer can remember your email address

Thank you. I have a 40. Happy to have 41 as well.

I thought I was battling against the clock, which is the only way I can write!

I'm sorry, I should have let you know. I hope it didn't make you neglect something more important.

not at all. I had a headache and have been doing very little but read and sleep.

Writing with a headache sounds entirely miserable. For that matter I have trouble reading with a headache. It's not to the author's benefit, because I end up associating whatever I'm reading with pain.

Well then, don't ever read my blog with a headache.


Don't worry, I avoid reading anything when I have a headache.

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