Thursday, March 29, 2007

Our Heroine Returns from a Holiday

This post was supposed to go up on Ash Wednesday. I've been on blog holiday! (Actually, I've just been blog-lazy.)

Anyhow, in the interim I've been heavily overdosing on Graham Greene. This film festival at BAM has forced me to read four, count 'em four, Greene novels in four weeks: Ministry of Fear, A Gun for Sale, Brighton Rock and The Third Man. I am going to see the last film at BAM tomorrow night with Father A., and although I'm finished with all four novels, it felt silly to start reading something non-Greene before the festival ended, so now I am in the middle of The Heart of the Matter.

I find Greene, in single doses, to effect in me a sense of hope. His broken, shabby heroes, taken one-at-a-time, really do remind me of "the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God." Taken five at a time though, they're just depressing. Here's an illustration of what I mean. I started reading Greene this month with Ministry of Fear and I'm ending with The Heart of the Matter. Turns out, these are fitting bookends. Both protagonists, Arthur Rowe in MOF and Henry Scobie in HOTM, suffer from a surfeit of pity, in particular towards their wives. I know that Greene thought that pity, as opposed to compassion, was a manifestation of the sin of pride. However, the difference in my reaction to both characters shows the wearying effect of five consecutive Greene novels. I really sympathised with Arthur Rowe, I even forgave him for the "mercy" killing of his wife. But Scobie I find just patronizing and tiresome. I long for a Scobie smackdown. Seriously, y'all, it's not healthy the way I want him punished for his pride, in a way that I did not want for Rowe. Of course, I haven't finished Scobie's story yet, so I may get what I want, but it's not happening soon enough for me.

After all this Greene I am so tired of the mediocrity, the shabbiness, and the frailty of all his characters. I'm tired of the doubting priests, the querulous wives, the faithless husbands, the petty spies, the ignorant policemen, the lame, the hair-lipped, the obese. Of course, I've only read five novels in four weeks and I'm already sick of the human race. How totally comforting to think that God has witnessed this same stuff - and worse - for thousands of years and loves us madly still.

For our far-from-saintly heroine, however, it's clearly time for some pallet-cleansing Wodehouse. Right ho!

No comments: