The Dreams of Graham Greene

Graham Greene week continues! Today’s our last installment before we take a look at intrepid women journalists (and other action heroines) in New York City of the 1910s.

The most curious book in the Graham Greene canon is probably his book of dreams, A World of My Own, essentially a dream diary. Stop there! I know what you’re thinking! Other peoples’ dreams are boring and tiresome. Well, that’s generally true. But Greene is such a strong writer and such a fascinating creature there’s some merit here. It’s worth a look.

Maria Popova goes through several of them over on Brainpickings. Here’s my favorite:

On May 5, 1973, I had an awful experience I am thankful never occurred in the Common World. I had sent a love scene in a new novel to my secretary to make a draft, but her draft was full of gaps — that was only tiresome. What was awful was that as I read aloud to the woman I loved, I realized how false it was, how sentimental, how permissive in the wrong way. She too knew how bad it was and that made me angry. I threw it away. “How can I read it to you,” I demanded, “If you interrupt and criticize? It’s only a draft, after all.”

But I knew that the whole book was hopeless. I said, “If only I could die before the book is published. It’s got to be published to earn money for the family.” The thought of Russian roulette came to me. Had I recently bought a revolver or was that a dream? My mistress tried to comfort me but it only made things worse.

Mike brought up the issue of Russian roulette, which Greene actually played, on the podcast. It’s interesting to see it here in the context of a failed book. Like any good writer, Greene took it hard if things didn’t work out.

(Note the first sentence, though: this never occurred in real life. In real life, the guy churned out 500 words a day and built his novels, brick by brick. There was no hopelessness.)

(And note the last sentence. My mistress tried to comfort me but it only made things worse. One suspects that THAT probably happened oh-too-often.)

Ah, sadness. Why do I take such comfort from you, even as you repel me?

Listen to our conversation about Graham Greene’s life and works or check out the other installments in the History of Literature podcast.


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