Thursday, 6 November 2014

Understanding my response to Graham Greene

I was surprised to find a collection of Graham Greene books in one of the boxes I took out of storage recently. Surprised because I don't remember being a Greene fan, and I do remember trying to be ruthless when I packed up my worldly goods to store in 2008.

I picked up my 30c copy of 'a gun for sale' and when I finished a couple of days later I felt a bit disappointed. I wanted to feel like I'd just had the privilege of spending time with one of the 20th century literary greats, but I didn't.

I've since read a few recent reviews which talk about it reading like a less serious draft of 'Brighton Rock', a book confused about whether it is literary or a thriller, one of his most entertaining "entertainments" and a thriller to devour in a single sitting.

None of these observations really satisfied me, and I was still trying to understand my response to the book when I heard this quote from John Peel on a podcast -
"anytime he ever hears a piece of music that he doesn't like, he just assumes that it's his problem"
And I realised that was what I felt after finishing 'a gun for sale' - I was disappointed in myself.

I had a strong visual association throughout the book, and think it compares to watching a movie that I didn't mind at all, that maybe I'd be glad I'd watched on DVD rather than made a night out of going to the cinema to see.

It's a book that's based on an intriguing premise, and if we're talking about effective character names then I don't think I'll forget Raven as the choice for the protagonist, and I did read until the end. I've decided to apportion 'blame' for my disappointment to: the era it was written in (a victim of its time); my expectations; following two fabulous works by Janet Frame and Dorothy Porter.

While this isn't his most successful novel, and I didn't love it, I'm pleased that I wasn't satisfied with just saying, meh, that was okay. I wanted to understand my reaction, and am glad that I've been reminded to  look for the good in someone's work, an approach I hope that I use with people. After all, we know how much time and effort goes into the creative process.

Of course I haven't paid that respect to some books since I decided a couple of years ago that there is no obligation to finishing a book just because it has been deemed good enough to publish.

Guess I need to work on my consistency.

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