Friday, September 23, 2011

Going Greene

Mr. Greene, some aspects of your books are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that. ~ Pope Paul VI to Graham Greene

I'm somewhat a fan of Graham Greene's writing. I like his prose style, for one thing. Clean, serviceable, to the point. Perhaps a little journalistic, at times, but that's better than going too far the other way.

His ideas, however, are where his strengths lie. His characters certainly come off as real people, especially compared to those of some of his contemporaries.

One of my favorite movies is based on a Greene novel. Of course, many of his books have ended up as novels -- they adapt well, often being rather movie-like as written. The movie to which I refer is 'The Fugitive.' That's the one directed by John Ford, with Henry Fonda in the lead role.

It is based on a novel that has appeared under more than one title but is best known as The Power and the Glory. The film is often criticized for changing many of the nuances of the book but simplification was undoubtedly called for. It's a good film on its own merits and has outstanding camera work.

But it is, admittedly, not as good as the novel. Rare is the movie that can claim to outshine its source material (though a few do exist). It is based on the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico during the 20s and early 30s, which Graham Greene witnessed personally.

It was an event which he claimed help strengthen his own faith. Unlike his fellow British Catholic convert, Evelyn Waugh, Greene felt a kinship to the humble, the peasants. Nor was he Waugh's fellow conservative, feeling that conservatism and Catholicism were 'impossible bedfellows.'

Perhaps Graham Greene was not a 'great' novelist but he was an important one, an influential and widely read one. If I were asked to name someone for an aspiring writer of novels to study, he might well be my first choice. He is a model for effectively presenting a point of view, even in his more pulpy suspense pot-boilers.

And without a point of view, is there any point at all to writing?

No comments: