Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The novelist Henry Green, as I know I've mentioned here before, has become one of the touchstone writers of my life. But I'd never heard of Green before I read a John Updike essay about him in the New York Review of Books. Perhaps I read that essay a decade or so ago. Whatever the date, my first meeting with Green was long past adolescence, when I bonded with so many of my other prose infatuations.

What attracts me to Green is the way in which his writing stays so firmly in the world of his characters' physical present, yet each description is tense with the unspoken--longing and loneliness; childhood and death. The characters seem almost stupid sometimes, yet they are not, and what is clear, always clear, is that Green loves them, and his prose--so oddly contorted, so extraordinarily patient--is a way of delineating that awkward tenderness.

Here is a description from his short novel Party Going. The character is named Julia, and she is walking through a dense London fog to the train station.
Then at another turn she was on more open ground. Headlights of cars turning into a road as they swept round hooting swept their light above where she walked, illuminating lower branches of trees. As she hurried she started at each blaring horn and each time she was reassured to see leaves brilliantly green veined like marble with wet dirt and these veins reflecting each light back for a moment then it would be gone out beyond her and then was altogether gone and there was another. 
These lights would come like thoughts in darkness, in a stream, a flash and then each was away.

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