27 September 2010

Graham Greene, A Sense of Reality, 1963

This slim volume of four short stories predates the twenty-five year period in which Greene kept a comprehensive dream diary, although dreams are clearly one of this collection’s thematic strands. His usual realism takes a back seat in favour of a more imaginative approach to his writing although, on this evidence, it doesn’t actually feel like something he was particularly comfortable with or even adept at: I puzzled at the glowing cover quotes and wonder if they were actually describing the same book I was reading. The most imaginative story, ‘A Discovery in the Woods’, a post-nuclear war piece, feels uncomfortably stilted throughout yet the idea is a decent enough one (it was also reprinted in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1967 and later anthologised in a science fictional context three times); I didn’t much care for the rather forced nature of the dream-inspired ‘Under the Garden’ and ‘A Dream of a Strange Land’, but the most successful story, ‘A Visit to Morin’, is a much more familiar kind of Greene, a sharp tale dealing with Catholicism and the loss of religious belief – now that’s a story to remember.  PY


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