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Old 12-17-2019, 06:11 PM   #53
gmw
cacoethes scribendi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
I think maybe we're talking about two different things? I was referring to elements of the author's life in his book, where I think it's irrelevant to the quality of the book and that a book should be approached without looking at it through that prism. That couldn't be achieved here entirely, of course, as it was obvious Maurice must be a variant on Greene, albeit less successful (or at an earlier point in his career). That doesn't mean that the author's bio can't provide insights, but to the extent a book can only be understood through the author's life, I think it's failed.[...]
I completely agree that a book should be able to be assessed independent of knowledge of the author's personal life, but I'd argue that that is not always feasible (short of being kept ignorant of that background). Indeed, until I read those links, you will see I was arguing that there was no need to assume that Bendrix was based on Greene; author's make up characters all the time, a writer character does not have to be based on the author.

So, it seems to me that when you say "it was obvious Maurice must be a variant on Greene", the mere fact that you know of this background has coloured your perspective. You are now looking at this book as something more deeply personal to the author than if we had assumed it was a work only of the imagination.

And, even assuming you are able read this book without thinking about how it has been influenced by the author's life, I've read other reviews saying that you must interpret this book through knowing about the author's private life and his struggle with Catholicism. Just the fact that this is known as one of the author's "Catholic books" seems to suggest that all Greene's books are being looked at this way.


The additional background knowledge has influenced my interpretation of the book to the extent that I am more inclined to accept the confused nature of its messages - real life is often confused. Also, I had thought that Bendrix was intentionally represented as despicable, now I have to wonder if the author didn't mean it that way, it seems he may have thought these actions and thoughts were ... reasonable?

I had always thought the book a failure, and that hasn't changed. I don't think the prose was anything special, those statistics I posted demonstrate at least one reason why I had that reaction. So yes, I can still assess the text as text, but I can no longer claim my reactions are unaffected by my knowledge of the author.
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