Posted by: Amanda | December 30, 2007

In memory of so many early morning Vienna hours at Maxim’s

How can it be that I am 38 years old and just reading Graham Greene for the first time?

For many years I have had his name on my tongue.  Every truly intriguing person I have met in passing, yet recall – we spoke of graham greene.  Every character in  a book or movie that sparked a sense of the life and being I want, read, carried or referred to Graham Greene.

I picked up the portable Graham Greene last march in a dark and dusty bookstore in Charlottesville.  It was one of those stores tucked around an alley, where the old wooden shelves run floor to ceiling and probably only stand because of the weight of the books and the fact they are holding up the ceiling.  It was that rich and languid weekend I felt as if I was stealing time, before I had built in grandmother help with the munchkin – when hours in a bookstore were an illusive memory. 

That day, I had no one waiting on a bench outside, or around the corner. No pressure to find what I need and move on to others’ interests.  That day I entered the dark and wandered, truly wandered along one wall that winds into the next.  I inhaled that smell of paper and ink and dust and love of books – the words, the touch, the typeface, the covers – that can only be found in old bookstores.   Without even having to look at a watch – gaging any passing of time by the sun when I emerge, I could meander into the next treasure trove -this one aimed more at an intellectual crowd – where arrangement is by topic or value rather than genre and feel the intoxicating atmosphere of that environs as well.  Emerging once again, I partake without ceasing of the modern bookstore – a thrill of its own flavor with its reaching out knowing what I want, offering, shiny and new the plethora of possibility. 

I know I am an addict.  And it was the weekend of indulgence, when I finally added Mr. Greene to my overflowing pile of books I trudged back to the hotel.

And yet, not until this morning – 9 months later, on a languid, mournful morning after a brief and minor injury the night before that gave me psychological permission to remain in bed while the rest of the household roused, did I reach into the nightstand and pull him out.

How had I missed the genius of this man.  Was I not ready?  Was it for today that his words reach my soul?  Would I have not felt the power of another human knowing in such diverse ways all that is rattling in my heart and mind?

I am a fool, this I know. I may have just ruined something very good in my life by pushing too much, and then rationalizing to forwardly. But I am not alone.  I have chosen a practical life.  I long for a romantic one.  In my maturing years, will I find a way to merge them into a cohesive whole , or at least incorporate them together in cohabitation? .  So that I might live a life with regrets perhaps, but not one unworthy of living again?

I don’t want quiet regrets, of a life wondering if everyone faces the same small losses and miseries – but outweighed by the value of the commonplace comforts.  I don’t want to risk the commonplace comforts for fear of finding on the otherside that was all there was worth reaching for.  Mr. Greene entices me.

Here are some quotes (in additon to the title of this post) that grabbed me in my reading this morning.  I know they are discordant, but in a way, not. And yet as I re-read them out of their context, they in no way capture the exotic and romantic flavor of his writing.

For surely we choose our death as much as we choose our job.  It grows out of our acts and our evasions, out of our fears and out of our moments of courage.

The motive of a journey deserves a little attention. 

After ten years of being happily married, she thought, one undervalues security and tranquility.

She had wondered whether she might perhaps detect some small unfamiliar note in his lovemaking which would indicate that a stranger had passed that way.

Next year, she thought, when I am forty, I must feel grateful that I have presrved the love of a good man.

She was a woman given to self -analysis.

It was absurd at thirty-nine not to be content. 

I lost the sense of jubilation, I began to gain from the experience only the crude kick of excitement.  It was like the difference between love and lust

Scobie could always detect the odour of human meanness and injustice…Prisoners and policemen carried it in their clothing like cigarette smoke.


  1. LOVE Graham Greene. Happy for you to have discovered him, even late. Check out The Power and the Glory.

  2. You wrote this entry so beautifully…

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