Thursday, December 11, 2008

Graham Greene on North and South

Today's online New York Times has an excerpt from Graham Greene: A Life in Letters, edited by Richard Greene. The excerpt is a letter Greene wrote to "Mumma" from Sierra Leone in May of 1942.

The part that caught my eye was this:
I'm reading North and South by Mrs Gaskell at the moment. Some of it is very good - and the acid humour is most pleasant. Only people in Victorian novels do seem to behave so oddly whenever sex rears its ugly head! Tremors and horrors and indignations. Would they think we behaved oddly? perhaps they'd think just disgustingly.

He goes on to talk about a Disney movie and Trollope, but having just had a mini-discussion on Republic of Pemberley's Library board about whether Gaskell had a sense of humor or not, I thought it interesting the Greene would mention the humor in N&S and modify it as acid. I think Gaskell is much more gentle in her humor than acidic, but then I don't know that much about Graham Greene. However, just reading the blurb on Amazon makes me want to read up on him:
Greene is presented in these letters through the five main preoccupations of his life: Roman Catholicism, politics, love, travel and, certainly not least, the processes of writing and publishing. As a publisher at Eyre & Spottiswoode, and as an author in disputes with Heinemann's and Viking ("Would rather change publisher than title"), Greene gained an unusually rounded view of the business side of his profession.

Connecting back to Gaskell, she ultimately did find another publisher than Dickens (i.e., for the serialization of her novels); perhaps like Greene, she would rather "change publisher than title" as Dickens changed a title on at least one occasion.

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