Catalogue


Romancing : the life and work of Henry Green /
Jeremy Treglown.
edition
1st U.S. ed.
imprint
New York : Random House, 2000.
description
xii, 331 p. : ill.
ISBN
0679433031 (acid-free paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Random House, 2000.
isbn
0679433031 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
4283298
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Jeremy Treglown has published six books Formerly the editor of The Times Literary Supplement and a visiting fellow at Princeton, the California Institute of Technology, and All Souls College, Oxford, he is now professor of English and comparative literary studies at the University of Warwick, England. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is married and lives in London and Oxfordshire
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Chapter 1 Names The river Severn meanders around the Yorke estate in Gloucestershire, between Forthampton Court, the big old house where one member of the family still lives, and the abbey town of Tewkesbury. On sleepy summer evenings in the 1910s, Vincent and Maud Yorke's youngest son, Henry, would sit in a boat fishing, a safe distance from his intimidatingly energetic and clever elder brothers and a few yards from workingmen who had cycled out from the town to fish from the meadow bank opposite. He imagined, as he later wrote, that between him and the men ?there was something conspiratorial . . . hunched over our floats as shadows began to stretch out long over the surface of the water.' The other thing he liked about the activity was the ?exciting connection with a remote element when there is only a hint of what is going on. . . . Not being able to see but only to feel.' In this memory, with its outsider's attraction to the lives of other people and its relish for intuition rather than knowledge, suggestion rather than explicitness, lies the embryo of a unique novelist who, in the intervals of his job as a not very successful businessman, was to write at lunchtimes and in the evenings under the name Henry Green.Loving, Green's 1945 novel about the servants in a big country house in neutral Ireland during the Second World War, includes a vivid scene centered on a game of blindman's buff, in which you have to feel people in order to tell who they are. ?Not being able to see? was the subject of his first book,Blindness, begun when he was still in school and published before he left university. The romantic plight of the newly sightless central character, a thinly disguised version of the author, enables him to hear those around him better, giving him access to not only their words but also their thoughts. As the Southern American writer Eudora Welty was to put it, Henry Green turned what people say ?into the fantasy of what they are telling each other, at the same time calling up out of their mouths their vital spirit.' In the middle of the twentieth century, anyone in the literary world on either side of the Atlantic who was asked to list the most important living writers in the English language would have immediately thought of Henry Green. Today, almost fifty years after the publication of the last of his novels, Green should be ranked among the great modern novelists, those whom James Wood has called ?the last true magi of language.' Wood rightly claims that in England, Green is the greatest of them after D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. The most obvious difference between him and them, of course, is the blankness that comes over most people's faces today when his name is mentioned. Yet he has never lacked articulate admirers. To John Updike he ?brings the rectangle of printed page alive like little else in English fiction of this century.' V. S. Pritchett wrote of him as ?a spirit of poetry, fantasy and often wild laughter, an original.' Eudora Welty said that his imagination was ?the most interesting and vital . . . in English fiction in our time,? and to the young John Ashbery he stood alone in combining prose-poetry with fidelity to everyday life, ?the Cordelia of modern novelists.' So why, outside professional literary circles, has he been almost unknown? In a famous interview forThe Paris Review, the Beat novelist Terry Southern said that there are writers and writer's writers, but that Henry Green was a writer's writer's writer. To the extent that this suggests that he isn't a reader's writer, it's misleading; but like any serious artist, he needs a climate not only of respect but of broad understanding in which to be appreciated, and that has been missing. Part of the problem has been the lack of a biography ? the only popular form of literary history in Western culture. Another difficulty is Green's individuality. There are ways in which he can be compare
Excerpt from Book
Chapter 1 Names The river Severn meanders around the Yorke estate in Gloucestershire, between Forthampton Court, the big old house where one member of the family still lives, and the abbey town of Tewkesbury. On sleepy summer evenings in the 1910s, Vincent and Maud Yorke's youngest son, Henry, would sit in a boat fishing, a safe distance from his intimidatingly energetic and clever elder brothers and a few yards from workingmen who had cycled out from the town to fish from the meadow bank opposite. He imagined, as he later wrote, that between him and the men ?there was something conspiratorial . . . hunched over our floats as shadows began to stretch out long over the surface of the water.' The other thing he liked about the activity was the ?exciting connection with a remote element when there is only a hint of what is going on. . . . Not being able to see but only to feel.' In this memory, with its outsider's attraction to the lives of other people and its relish for intuition rather than knowledge, suggestion rather than explicitness, lies the embryo of a unique novelist who, in the intervals of his job as a not very successful businessman, was to write at lunchtimes and in the evenings under the name Henry Green. Loving, Green's 1945 novel about the servants in a big country house in neutral Ireland during the Second World War, includes a vivid scene centered on a game of blindman's buff, in which you have to feel people in order to tell who they are. ?Not being able to see? was the subject of his first book, Blindness, begun when he was still in school and published before he left university. The romantic plight of the newly sightless central character, a thinly disguised version of the author, enables him to hear those around him better, giving him access to not only their words but also their thoughts. As the Southern American writer Eudora Welty was to put it, Henry Green turned what people say ?into the fantasy of what they are telling each other, at the same time calling up out of their mouths their vital spirit.' In the middle of the twentieth century, anyone in the literary world on either side of the Atlantic who was asked to list the most important living writers in the English language would have immediately thought of Henry Green. Today, almost fifty years after the publication of the last of his novels, Green should be ranked among the great modern novelists, those whom James Wood has called ?the last true magi of language.' Wood rightly claims that in England, Green is the greatest of them after D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. The most obvious difference between him and them, of course, is the blankness that comes over most people's faces today when his name is mentioned. Yet he has never lacked articulate admirers. To John Updike he ?brings the rectangle of printed page alive like little else in English fiction of this century.' V. S. Pritchett wrote of him as ?a spirit of poetry, fantasy and often wild laughter, an original.' Eudora Welty said that his imagination was ?the most interesting and vital . . . in English fiction in our time,? and to the young John Ashbery he stood alone in combining prose-poetry with fidelity to everyday life, ?the Cordelia of modern novelists.' So why, outside professional literary circles, has he been almost unknown? In a famous interview for The Paris Review, the Beat novelist Terry Southern said that there are writers and writer's writers, but that Henry Green was a writer's writer's writer. To the extent that this suggests that he isn't a reader's writer, it's misleading; but like any serious artist, he needs a climate not only of respect but of broad understanding in which to be appreciated, and that has been missing. Part of the problem has been the lack of a biography ? the only popular form of literary history in Western culture. Another difficulty is Green's individuality. There are ways in which he can be comp
First Chapter
Chapter 1 Names The river Severn meanders around the Yorke estate in Gloucestershire, between Forthampton Court, the big old house where one member of the family still lives, and the abbey town of Tewkesbury. On sleepy summer evenings in the 1910s, Vincent and Maud Yorke?s youngest son, Henry, would sit in a boat fishing, a safe distance from his intimidatingly energetic and clever elder brothers and a few yards from workingmen who had cycled out from the town to fish from the meadow bank opposite. He imagined, as he later wrote, that between him and the men ?there was something conspiratorial . . . hunched over our floats as shadows began to stretch out long over the surface of the water.? The other thing he liked about the activity was the ?exciting connection with a remote element when there is only a hint of what is going on. . . . Not being able to see but only to feel.? In this memory, with its outsider?s attraction to the lives of other people and its relish for intuition rather than knowledge, suggestion rather than explicitness, lies the embryo of a unique novelist who, in the intervals of his job as a not very successful businessman, was to write at lunchtimes and in the evenings under the name Henry Green. Loving, Green?s 1945 novel about the servants in a big country house in neutral Ireland during the Second World War, includes a vivid scene centered on a game of blindman?s buff, in which you have to feel people in order to tell who they are. ?Not being able to see? was the subject of his first book, Blindness, begun when he was still in school and published before he left university. The romantic plight of the newly sightless central character, a thinly disguised version of the author, enables him to hear those around him better, giving him access to not only their words but also their thoughts. As the Southern American writer Eudora Welty was to put it, Henry Green turned what people say ?into the fantasy of what they are telling each other, at the same time calling up out of their mouths their vital spirit.? In the middle of the twentieth century, anyone in the literary world on either side of the Atlantic who was asked to list the most important living writers in the English language would have immediately thought of Henry Green. Today, almost fifty years after the publication of the last of his novels, Green should be ranked among the great modern novelists, those whom James Wood has called ?the last true magi of language.? Wood rightly claims that in England, Green is the greatest of them after D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. The most obvious difference between him and them, of course, is the blankness that comes over most people?s faces today when his name is mentioned. Yet he has never lacked articulate admirers. To John Updike he ?brings the rectangle of printed page alive like little else in English fiction of this century.? V. S. Pritchett wrote of him as ?a spirit of poetry, fantasy and often wild laughter, an original.? Eudora Welty said that his imagination was ?the most interesting and vital . . . in English fiction in our time,? and to the young John Ashbery he stood alone in combining prose-poetry with fidelity to everyday life, ?the Cordelia of modern novelists.? So why, outside professional literary circles, has he been almost unknown? In a famous interview for The Paris Review, the Beat novelist Terry Southern said that there are writers and writer?s writers, but that Henry Green was a writer?s writer?s writer. To the extent that this suggests that he isn?t a reader?s writer, it?s misleading; but like any serious artist, he needs a climate not only of respect but of broad understanding in which to be appreciated, and that has been missing. Part of the problem has been the lack of a biography ? the only popular form of literary history in Western culture. Another difficulty is Green?s individuality. There are ways in which he can be comp
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-09-01:
Romancing is a great title for a biography of a writer who gave his books participial titles like Loving, Concluding, and Doting, and who called "romancing over the bottle, to a good band" his favorite pastime. The biography's title is but one of the book's many virtues. Writing with balance, clarity, and depth, Treglown (Univ. of Warwick, UK) recounts the irksome tightness with money, the marital disloyalty, and the boozing of this "unignorable author" so admired by Eudora Welty and John Updike. The troubling first words of Green's autobiographical memoir Pack My Bag (1940)--"I was born a mouthbreaker with a silver spoon"--allude to the problems caused by the aristocratic birth of a snob who would write perhaps most insightfully about house servants and factory hands. Funny and disturbing, Green's novels mine his own confusion and pain, as is expressed by his having built three of them around men who were deaf (he was hard of hearing himself), blind, and one legged. Treglown's assured, perceptive readings of Green (1905-73) both justify the claim that he was the leading experimental novelist of his day in the UK and show that his condensed, elliptical books, with their continuing affirmations of commonsense, tenderness, and kindness, triumph at the human level. All collections. P. Wolfe University of Missouri--St. Louis
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-02-26:
When the enigmatic English novelist Henry Green (1905-1973) wrote his prewar partial autobiography, Pack My Bag, he approached his life with characteristic obliqueness, refusing to drop the names of his famous friends, such as Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, or even his real name, Henry Yorke. Treglown, professor of English at the University of Warwick and former editor of the Times Literary Supplement, was at one time Green's official biographer. That position was later retracted, but he continued to receive a great deal of help from friends and family. Treglown takes a direct approach to the Green/Yorke identity split and how central it was to this profoundly divided man and his writing. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family, Green was both a dutiful and disappointing son. He published his first novel while still at Oxford but failed to take his degree. He would later head the family engineering firm but first joined as a laborer in its Midlands foundry. Terrified of death, he spent the Blitz in London as a firefighter. His many novels include Party Going, Living, Loving and Nothing, which, Treglown shows, were notable for their stylized yet colloquial dialogue and their combination of High Modernism, like that of Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, and social satire, like that of Waugh and Powell. While Treglown approaches Green with greater sympathy than he gave his prior biographical subject, Roald Dahl, he does not shy from his subject's serial extramarital romances with much younger women or his decline into alcoholism, which finally crippled both his business and literary careers. Terry Southern, a friend of Green's, called him "a writer's writer's writer," and Treglown does a fine job of establishing the previously blurred distinctions and connections between Green's personal and professional identity and his literature. Agent, Amanda Urban, ICM. (On-sale date: Mar. 20) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2001-03-01:
"Henry Green" was the pen name of Henry Yorke, an upper-class British businessman who between 1926 and 1952 produced 13 of the most innovative novels of the century, among them Blindness and Party Going. Born in 1905, Green was educated at Eton and Oxford but periodically made unconventional job choices e.g., factory worker and then volunteer fireman in London during the Blitz. Although a well-known figure both in high society and avant-garde literary circles, he led almost a double life and became fanatically protective of his writing persona. Sadly, his later years were eclipsed by alcoholism, and it has only been since his death in 1973 that he has been considered "a writer's writer's writer." Treglown (English, Univ. of Warwick) is the first to integrate Green's life and writing, using extensive interviews, some family papers, and other archives not previously available. Lack of formal approval from Green's son makes this an unauthorized biography and might ultimately explain why Treglown doesn't quite explain this most elusive man. Nevertheless, this volume, as the first full-length biographical study, is an essential starting point for understanding Green's amazing creations. For general and specialized libraries. Shelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"The Times Literary Supplement, International Book of the Year: Equally sympathetic to the strange life and strange novels."
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, February 2001
Kirkus Reviews, February 2001
Publishers Weekly, February 2001
Chicago Tribune, March 2001
Library Journal, March 2001
New York Times Book Review, March 2001
Los Angeles Times, April 2001
Washington Post, April 2001
Choice, September 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Henry Green led a double life. As Henry Yorke, a descendant of the earl of Hardwicke and Baron Leconfield, he was a wealthy aristocrat, with a family fortune and an engineering plant in the British Midlands. As Henry Green (the pseudonym he settled on after trying out Henry Browne), he wrote nine of our century's most original novels, including Living, Party Going, Caught, and Loving all of which, with daringly experimental techniques, capture the psychological truths of ordinary life in dramatic, sometimes poignant, and often hilarious ways. Green also formed friendships and rivalries with many of his time's leading literary figures, including Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, Eudora Welty and Terry Southern. And he led an extravagantly messy personal life. Jeremy Treglown, the highly praised biographer of Roald Dahl, discusses Green's novels in close connection with his life his unusual camaraderie with factory workers, his sympathy for servants, his ambivalence about his peers, his drinking, and his extramarital affairs. Treglown also shows how Green's portrayal of everyday uncertainties mirrored his efforts to understand his weaknesses and the chaotic conduct of his life efforts whose literary results, John Updike has said, bring the rectangle of the printed page alive like little else in English fiction of this century.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Namesp. 3
Society of Artsp. 26
Drinking Through a Strawp. 43
Worksp. 65
The Bright Young Yorkesp. 88
Dying with Henryp. 114
To mary to Mary to Maryp. 140
Taxesp. 163
Mr. Yongep. 188
Last Lovep. 209
Young Fellows with Flashing Heelsp. 226
Degringoladep. 248
Abbreviations and Referencesp. 259
Notesp. 263
Select Bibliographyp. 311
Further Acknowledgmentsp. 317
Indexp. 319
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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