Saturday, October 16, 2010

Readings: The Paris Review Interviews #5

The interview that I chose to read next was that of Brit novelist, Graham Greene. I have enjoyed several of his novels immensely; most notably The Power and the Glory, Brighton Beach, and The Heart of the Matter. The interview, unfortunately, proved to be a disappointment. Perhaps Greene simply dislikes being questioned. Perhaps he was in a shitty mood. Or perhaps the great man is simply a bore. In any event, his responses to the interviewers' questions did not provide me with that one pithy quote for which I was looking, in order to stay true to the ground rules I established to guide this enterprise.

The best Graham Greene quotes to be had in this interview were some of the ones embedded in the questions put to Greene by the interviewers in the expectation, I'm sure, that they would evoke something comparably memorable to submit to The Paris Review.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...right? An example of these would be: "You made Scobie say in The Heart of the Matter: 'Point me out the happy man and I will show you either egotism, selfishness, evil or else an absolute ignorance.'" Now, that one could have been the centerpiece of this post. But, alas...

In the same question, the interviewer quotes from The Power and the Glory: "The world is all much of a piece: it is engaged everwhere in the same subterranean struggle...there is no peace anywhere there is life; but there are quiet and active sectors of the line." Yeah. That's why I love the novels.

The one "live" quote in this interview which I found mildly amusing was Greene's response to the question "Do you see much of your fellow authors?" Greene replies:

Not much, they are not one's material. A few of them are very dear friends of mine, but for a writer to spend much of his time in the company of authors is, you know, a form of masturbation.

That's about as good as it gets. Granted, the question wasn't very interesting in the first place...

Probably the quote that best describes the way the whole interview went (and perhaps best characterizes the man as well) is the one with which the piece ends:

[The telephone rang. Mr. Greene smiled in a faint deprecatory way as if to signify he'd said all he wished to say, picked up the instrument, and spoke into it.]

Hello? Hello Peter! How is Andrea? Oh, it's the other Peter. How is Maria? No, I can't do it this evening. I've got Mario Soldati on my hands--we're doing a film in Italy this summer. I'm coproducing. How about Sunday? Battersea? Oh, they're not open? Well, then, we'll go to my pleasant little Negro night club round the corner...

One can see why the piece abruptly cuts off right there.