2009: 148. Collected Short Stories

“It was on the eve of the August Bank Holiday that the latest recruit became the leader of the Wormsley Common Gang.”

Collected Short Stories, Graham Greene

             As the title suggests, this is a collection of short stories by Greene, comprising three previously published volumes, Twenty-One Stories, A Sense of Reality, and May We Borrow Your Husband?.  I am fast becoming an expert on Greene, having recently completed the second volume of his three volume biography (but not, alas, the third - so much for my Book Resolution), and believe me, when you read three volumes about someone, you start to feel like you know everything about them.*

            Anyway, I do intend to delve a little more deeply into Greene next year (well, this year, since I’m writing this 2009 review in 2010) -  finishing the bio, finally starting my Graham Greene project, and this is a good starting point to talk a bit about the mysterious and multifaceted Mr. Greene.  

            As with most short story collections, this is a mixed bag.  There are some classics here, for sure - the story quoted above, “The Destructors,” which was the first story in the collection was so upsetting that I almost put the book down and found something else to read.  Nasty and nihilistic, it is one of those ultimate Greene stories, filled with rotten and horrible people (made worse by the fact that these particular people are children).   Other classic stories include “The Basement Room” (which I understand was also made into a classic film) and “The End of the Party” which also was about children - here its their capacity for fear, not evil that breaks your heart.  Others were strange but attention grabbing - the quasi homophobic “May We Borrow Your Husband?” caught me off guard - for some reason I didn’t expect a story about the seduction of a young man by two predatory homosexuals from Greene.  And, of course, there are stories that are extremely slight and hardly worthy of the Greene name - which is to be expected in a “Collected Short Stories” but nonetheless made me wish I was reading The Heart of the Matter instead.  I think if you like Greene you’ll enjoy this collection - or if you don’t mind reading some dross to get to the gems.  If you’re not familiar with Greene, though, I’d suggest one of his classic novels - or at least a more edited short story collection.

Date/Place Completed:  December 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction

*It certainly begs the question of why on earth I thought it was necessary to read a three volume biography of Greene.  I mean, I enjoy his writing, and I have found his life to be reasonably interesting (hence the completion of the three volumes), but really, who is interesting enough to dedicate three volumes (literally hundreds - if not thousands of pages to?).  Even Jesus only gets half of the Bible!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017