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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Green’

A Pocket Versailles, and Other News

October 19, 2016 | by

The penthouse at Trump Tower. Photo: Sam Horine.

  • Thom Jones, a high school janitor whose short stories vaunted him into the literary spotlight in the early nineties, has died at seventy-one: “ Jones worked on the Betty Crocker Noodles Almondine line at a General Mills plant. He was fired as an advertising copywriter because, he was told, a client would not countenance his proposed slogan for the Jolly Green Giant—which was more or less, with an expletive inserted, ‘These are the best peas I ever ate’ … His ferocious, semiautobiographical short stories about boxers, custodians, soldiers, crime victims, cancer patients and asylum inmates coupled a fateful machismo—the eternal pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer was his hero—with grim humor.”
  • Our indefatigable efforts to drill into Trump’s psyche have led us to this: a close consideration of his interior decorating. Back in his eighties heyday, the Donald—still with Ivana then—turned to the designer Angelo Donghia to help him tame the Trump Tower penthouse. But in the intervening decades, something, some remaining tendril of good taste, was irrevocably broken, and now, as Thomas de Monchaux writes, the Trump penthouse is overstuffed with decorative diversions: “From the reflective ceilings to the gilded Corinthian capitals, a would-be Sun King eventually built himself a hall of mirrors, a pocket Versailles. Closer to the truth may be that a restless eye sought for itself a home that, detail upon detail, eye-catcher upon eye-catcher, provides constant diversion. The current Trump penthouse is a place for a short span of attention, a place without threat of stillness, a place where you don’t spend a lot of time wondering whether something is right or wrong. Ironically, the task of making such a place is not a matter of quick judgment and definite attitude, but is methodical, belabored, and slow.” 

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Tonight at McNally Jackson: A Celebration of Henry Green

October 17, 2016 | by


New Yorkers: tonight at seven, join The Paris Review’s Lorin Stein at McNally Jackson, where he’ll be in conversation with Deborah EisenbergMichael Greenberg, and Craig Lucas; they’re discussing the brilliant Henry Green (1905–1973), whose novels BackLoving, and Caught will be reissued this fall by New York Review Books. Green talked to The Paris Review about Loving back in 1958:

I got the idea of Loving from a manservant in the Fire Service during the war. He was serving with me in the ranks, and he told me he had once asked the elderly butler who was over him what the old boy most liked in the world. The reply was: “Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, listening to the church bells, eating buttered toast with cunty fingers.” I saw the book in a flash.

Green was a divisive writer in his lifetime. W. H. Auden called him “the best English novelist alive” (NB: he was still alive at the time); The Partisan Review called him “a terrorist of language.” Who was right? The answer to this question and many others, tonight.

Bringing Back Brutalism, and Other News

October 11, 2016 | by

Photo: (c) Roberto Conte,

  • Henry Green’s novels are being reissued, and you should read them as soon as you can. Don’t even finish reading this post. Just get up and go buy them and read them. I’ll be here. If you’re not inclined to do what I tell you just because I told you to do it, Leo Robson can convince you more elegantly: “Green believed that well-groomed, well-behaved English was an obstacle to expression. But his style wasn’t a merely negative exercise, a winnowing or clearing out: he delivered a gorgeous, full-bodied alternative. The Henry Green novel—typically portraying failures of love and understanding, and noisy with the vernacular of industrialists and Cockneys, landowners and servants—was terse, intimate, full of accident and unnerving comedy, exquisite though still exuberant, sensual and whimsical, reflexively figurative yet always surprising, preoccupied with social nuance, generational discord, and sensory phenomena while maintaining an air of abstraction, as reflected in those flighty gerund titles.” 

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Who the Fuck Was That Guy?

October 29, 2014 | by


From the first-edition jacket of Henry Green’s Party Going.

I’m delighted to hear from Bob that you have undertaken an interview with Henry Green. I meant to write you last spring that I had tea with him in London—with his wife, some others, and Christopher Logue, that frenetic poet whom you may remember from Paris and who worships Green and begged to be taken along. Well, he was, and there was Green in a double-breasted black business suit going under the name York (sic), talking like a businessman from Manchester, with an anecdote or two, terribly long—one, as I remember, about a seal two old ladies found on a beach near Brighton and nursed back to health in their bathtub, the point of the story being that in England alone could such a thing happen. Logue kept darting looks at the door, for Green, I guess, and making side remarks of incredible rudeness to York. When we left, Logue asked: “Jesus, who the fuck was that guy on the sofa.” “Henry Green,” I said.
—George Plimpton, from a letter to Terry Southern, 1957

Ever since I read that letter (plug: it’s from our Fall issue) I’ve had Henry Green’s seal anecdote on my mind, mostly in light of the many questions it raises: How did those old ladies transport the seal? What was entailed, exactly, in nursing it back to health, and how did they know it was well again? Did they keep it as a pet afterward?

I fear the answers are lost to the ages.

As Plimpton tells it, Green wasn’t very stimulating company, but—given what I know of his persona, and the intense affinity I feel for his seal story—I can think of few writers I’d rather spend an afternoon with. I envision us puttering around his family’s pipe factory in Birmingham, perhaps checking various gauges, with Green in his business suit, his hands clasped behind his back, carrying on a kind of tour-de-force monologue all the while, losing his place and opening several series of parentheses with no intention of closing them. Listening to Green hold forth, I imagine, was probably a lot like reading him: an enlightening, exhilarating, and not infrequently exhausting experience. Read More »


Don’t Get Hot

September 23, 2014 | by


Illustration: Tomia

An anecdote about censorship, since it’s Banned Books Week. Readers of today’s TPR know that our writers cuss with all the relish of a splenetic sailor who’s just stubbed his toe on shore leave. But such was not always the case. The magazine’s earliest editors were leery of salty language, and Terry Southern never forgot it.

Our latest issue features an editorial exchange between Southern and George Plimpton from 1958, when they were preparing Southern’s interview with Henry Green for publication. That interview features a now-classic aperçu from Green about the origin of his novel Loving:

I got the idea of Loving from a manservant in the Fire Service during the war. He was serving with me in the ranks, and he told me he had once asked the elderly butler who was over him what the old boy most liked in the world. The reply was: “Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, listening to the church bells, eating buttered toast with cunty fingers.” I saw the book in a flash.

As Southern wrote to Plimpton, “Hot stuff, eh George? Well now you realize of course that the word ‘cunty’ makes the reply, gives it bite, insight, etc. I mean to say it simply would not do to rephrase it, ‘Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, eating toast with fingers,’ would it?” Read More »


Dear Paris Review, Where Do I Publish?

July 20, 2012 | by

Dear Editors:

Have made writing full time. Have novel and short essays. Attended NYU’s Summer Writer program last year. Would you have a good list of places for submissions beyond The Paris Review, The New Yorker and The New York Times? Thank you for reaching out via Twitter and offering some of us (hopefully lovable) newbies some guidance.

Dear Newbie,

We get asked this a lot. It’s a reasonable question, but it always makes our hearts sink.

Here’s the thing: no matter how many classes you take, no matter how much time you spend at the keyboard, you cannot write seriously unless you read. And that means, partly, reading your contemporaries. Their problems are your problems; you can’t write—that is, you can’t write for serious readers—until you know what the problems are. Read More »