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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trying to like Loving (by Henry Green)

Henry Green, another writer whose name always comes up and is much praised by Updike, who in fact wrote the intro to the edition I'm reading, is a puzzle to me on first glance so I'll withhold judgement until at least one more day of reading but I'm finding his short novel Loving (I think all of his novels have single-word, gerund titles - very cool, in my opinion) to be difficult to grasp. Partly, that's Green's intent and his style: he's obviously much influenced by Va Woolf and probably FM Ford, at least re Parade's End, just putting us in the scene as a silent and unseen observer and letting the events, such as they are, unfold without guidance, perspective, or narrative intrusion: there are so far as I can remember in the first 50 or so pp no descriptions of character or setting and no back story save for what characters reveal in their dialogue. We are in the "downstairs" at an Irish estate during WW II, which hovers over this novel (and millions of others) as an international trauma - in Ireland, just barely felt, except for some shortages, but at least one of the characters has a son serving and another writes to his mother in England concerned about the bombs. The story such as it is, so far, is: an elderly servant, the head of the male servants, dies and an underling moves up and is trying to figure out how his predecessor skimmed profits and kept the books, he's also carrying on with one of the female servants, although she engages in some fairly tame sexual foreplay with another maid. The head of the household is taking in a refugee child from England. Kind of hard to follow the strands and to figure out who's who - especially in that Green falls prey to that peculiar British tendency to refer to characters almost randomly by many different names - surname, patronym, nickname, even misnomer (the ruling family has the annoying and condescending habit of referring to all head butlers as Arthur, the name of their first butler) - why? just to make it even harder for us? I'm trying to like this book! Lend me a hand, will ya?

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