Greene and Me . . . by Our Woman on Capri

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 16, 2000 | Go to article overview

Greene and Me . . . by Our Woman on Capri


Byline: CRAIG BROWN

Greene On Capri: A Memoir by Shirley Hazzard Virago [pounds sterling]12.99 **** This year, the world will be turning Greene. A film of The End Of The Affair, featuring Ralph Fiennes, is to be accompanied by a tie-in documentary on the BBC.

Having already amassed 1,300 pages of official biography, Norman Sherry will be publishing his third and final volume (unless, of course, he stalks Graham Greene into the afterlife, coming up with a fourth volume detailing his subject's on-off relationship with the Almighty).

Meanwhile, William Cash is publishing The Third Woman, a biography of Catherine Walston, the louche temptress at the heart of Greene's life and work.

Traditionally, most writers suffer a dip in popularity after they die. It is almost as if their deaths lead their readers to suspect a similar unreliability at the heart of their work. But somehow, nine years after dying, Greene is still going strong.

Why? I think it has much to do with the energy he put into the cultivation of his own legend. By the time of his death, Greene was world-famous for avoiding celebrity, so that he had become the most public recluse on earth.

Over long and chatty lunches, he would protest his need for privacy to reverential interviewers from far and wide, the 'exclusive' tag on their pieces growing larger with his every fresh recital of his undergraduate penchant for Russian roulette, or his first memory of waking up with a dead dog in his pram.

His contemporary, Anthony Powell, called him 'a master of publicity', wisely noting that playing hard to get was the surest way of gaining coverage.

It is difficult to think of another author who has so readily provided his authorised biographer with love letters, intimate diaries and brand new details about the role of prostitutes in his early married life, harder still to think of one who, having done all this, has still managed to preserve a reputation for secrecy.

The first bit of Greenery out of the bag this year is a slim volume - a very slim volume - called Greene On Capri. It is a memoir by a woman who lived on the island where he had a holiday home, and who bumped into him from time to time, eventually coming to know him reasonably well.

I confess I initially wanted to review this book because I imagined it would be the perfect example of the absurdity of the burgeoning Greene industry.

Whatever next? One Pint Please, Preferably Rancid: Graham Greene's Milkman Looks Back? Brighton Frock: A Biography Of Greene's Tailor? Our Van In Havana: Driving A Ford Transit Through Greene's Cuba?

I came to the book with a smirk, then, but finished it with a purr: it is, in its unassuming way, a little masterpiece of reminiscence, an evocation of what it was like, in the author's characteristically elegant words, 'to be habitually in his company, to walk with him in a street, to exchange opinions, literature, laughter, and something of one's self; to observe his moods and responses, suffer his temper, and witness his attachments; to see him grow old'.

These are all things that the conventional biographer, however dogged his march through his subject's CV, is unable to do. And reading a personal sketch of this quality makes me think that perhaps the conventional biography is just a grandiose dump-bin for all those elements of a life that do not matter; that all one can hope for from a book about any individual is a taste of what it was like to be with them.

Shirley Hazzard first encountered Greene in a cafe in Capri in the late Sixties. She was doing the Times crossword while he chatted with a friend at the next table. Greene's conversation became jammed as he struggled to recall the last line of a poem by Robert Browning. Hazzard finished her coffee and her crossword, paid her bill, fetched her raincoat and umbrella, recited the line as she passed his table and left. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Greene and Me . . . by Our Woman on Capri
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.