Writing as Conversation

Elisa sends this pdf file of a Master’s thesis from the 1970s on Henry Green. My quick take on it is that we’ve covered some of the same ground in our discussions that Ms. Fraser does in her thesis, but she writes clearly and may be worth your time :

A New Yorker essay on Green by Leo Robson (2016)

I’ve stumbled on a fascinating essay by Leo Robson about Henry Green, in a back-issue of The New Yorker. The piece pulls together a number of points we’ve been discussing about Green’s style and intent, and wraps it around with biographical nuggets and insightful comments about Green’s novels and stories.  Robson also traces the rise and fall and rise of Green’s reputation.  … I especially like Robson’s discussion of Loving:  among other things, he compares the novel with Jean Renoir’s film,The Rules of the Game (1939).
Here are two PDF’s – one of the entire article (8 pages), and one containing his analysis of Loving (1+ pages)

Finally, I paste below Robson’s discussion comparing Green’s Loving with Renoir’s The Rules of the Game.

Green was an obsessive cinema-goer, and “Loving,” in its plot and setting, has strong resemblances to Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game” (1939), which concerns upstairs-downstairs antics at a French villa over a shooting weekend. Between the Mozart waltz during the opening credits and the closing shot of symmetrical shrubbery, an atmosphere of chaos reigns: decorum and ceremony are continually undone by the overflow of human feeling. “Loving” begins with “Once upon a day” and ends with “happily ever after,” but along the way Green thwarts the reader’s desire to impose a sense of order on the action. (Those fairy-tale phrases are booby-trapped, too: “Once upon a day” is confounding, and it’s not clear that the ending will be happy in the least.) A game of blindman’s buff played by the servants in “Loving” is similar, in its position and its import, to a game of hide-and-seek in “The Rules of the Game.”
Renoir and Green also share the use of a perspective that is neither omniscient nor subjective—one that is partial and imperfect, but not obviously unreliable. In “The Rules of the Game,” the camera, rather than anticipating where its characters will go, can hardly keep up with their movements. The Green narrator sometimes knows a lot and at other times is likely to throw up his hands and say, “It may have been a few days later that . . .” Neither novel nor film tells us much of its characters’ histories.
Encoded in these habits is a wider aversion to authorial confidence and an embrace of human mystery. As Octave, the character played by Renoir in “The Rules of the Game,” says, “Everyone has their reasons,” so Raunce tells a housemaid, “Everyone has their feelings.”

Correction (When quite is *not* ambiguous . . .)

At our Saturday meeting I mentioned a passage in which Green’s love of porous (or translucent) prose leads him to have Mrs. Jack ask her mother-in-law, “What d’you mean by quite?” – when, in fact, Mrs. Tennant hasn’t used the word “quite” in her previous dialogue. 
I owe blog readers an apology.  I realize now that I completely misread Mrs Jack’s question.  First off, Green’s text doesn’t have a “by” after “mean” … The correct sentence is: “What d’you mean quite?” Because I was listening with my American ears, I subconsciously inserted quotation marks around “quite” – and so understood that Violet was asking her mother-in-law why she used that word.  But if I’d had my British ears turned on, I would have heard quite in rather a different way.  Using more straight-forward syntax, I believe we can phrase Violet’s question as “What do you quite mean?” 
… I see no reason to pursue this “interesting” point any further.  (Old scholars never die, they just babble more nonsense than they used to.)
I’ve now located the passage in question and I attach a PDF of it.  As I still haven’t found my hard copy of Loving, perhaps someone else could supply the appropriate page numbers in a reply to this post.  (Kindle says the passage occurs about 90% into the book.)
Of course, this short section supplies but one example of Green’s whirling, spinning language whose words, images, and intuitions push the boundaries of linearity;  challenge our normal processes of understanding;  and create worlds for our imagination to swim in that are fascinating and distinctive – yet often impossible to explain or to comprehend with any certainty.
— Tom