Nineteen Stories

by Graham Greene, (c) 1949, this Bantam edition published 1960, short story collection

the 44th in my review series of “forgotten” books

You don’t really notice dull colors until you see something especially bright and vibrant. Food is just food until you taste something really delicious. Fiction is just enjoyable writing – not a bad thing – until you read an author who displays mastery on every page, in every paragraph. Graham Greene is a master.

I’ve had this collection a long time, I bought it in the mid-1960s, soon after I first read Greene’s Brighton Rock. I read it then and again sometime in the early 1980s. A third reading for this review finds the stories just as appealing and as memorable. If anything, the intervening years of reading have sharpened my enjoyment. Each of these stories tells a seemingly simple story, yet Greene makes simplicity complex and complexity simple. Not being a writer I can’t guess how he does it, but without a lot of fuss he pulls me into the stories until I’m there, I follow every scene, every conversation to the end of the story, when I close the book, my finger holding my place, blink, and perhaps let a small “oh.” escape my lips.

For me, this was a book to savor, not read straight through. I kept it on the nightstand for a month, enjoying a single story at a time. Some things are best that way: in small, delicious bites.

~  ~  ~  ~

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews
at her own blog, and
posts a complete list of participating blogs.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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13 Responses to Nineteen Stories

  1. Todd Mason says:

    Goodness. The minor stories here are fine…the major ones are game-changers. The book’s packagers knew what they were about in every way…I’ll need this book, if not a more comprehensive one…but this one is handsome. (I still need to go look up which Greene story lost the British ARGOSY contest to Theodore Sturgeon’s “Bianca’s Hands,” a no-shame second place for almost any story.

    FWIW, George Kelley is gathering the lists today. (Or so I think.)

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Excellent review, Rick. The version I read was 21 Stories.

  3. Yes, I’m hosting FORGOTTEN BOOKS today while Patti and Phil are vacationing.

    Todd, Penguin Books has a nice COMPLETE SHORT STORIES of Graham Greene at a nice price.

    I’ve enjoyed every Graham Greene book I’ve ever read. Sadly, my students have never heard of him.

  4. Richard says:

    Todd – When I took this off the shelf to reread it this time, I’d forgotten how good it is and was delighted all over again. Excellent, excellent writing. See? I do read other things than old pulp stories and historical mysteries… Heh.

    Jeff – That’s interesting. What two stories did they add, and what edition is that?

  5. Richard says:

    George – That is sad, I’d have thought Greene had more staying power than that, but I guess if there isn’t a handheld smart phone game based on his work… no that’s to harsh and I know it, but my gosh, sometimes I think it won’t be but another decade or two until the American readers are functionally illiterate. Perhaps they already are, at least the under-30 generations.

  6. Mr. Greene’s output of top quality is staggering. I’ve read many of these stories but have to admit the collection presented here is tempting. Ah, what the hell. Off to Amazon I go.

  7. I share the same sense of despair that you do, Rick. Our future generations are growing up playing video games and texting. Every time I give my students a reading assignment, you should see the dozens of “eye-rolls” the students give me. To many of them, reading is a chore.

    And, so many great writers like Graham Greene are rapidly being forgotten.

  8. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I don’t have the book – got it from the library. It was a Penguin edition and – oddly – has this explanation:

    “Originally published under the title Nineteen stories.”–T.p. verso.

    Strange, to say the least.

  9. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Don’t even get me started on texting. The number of times I have to dodge some moron (sorry but no other word fits) walking straight into me with his (or her) head buried in the text he’s sending grows every day.

    And you know what’s really rude (and sadly, this generation doesn’t seem to even notice)? Yesterday in a restaurant: three young women eating lunch together and talking. One eats with one hand and never puts the cellphone down from her other hand, except to occasionally text back whoever texted her, while she never stopped talking!

    And (as Bill Crider will undoubtedly say) Stay Off My Lawn!

    /end geezer rant

  10. Richard says:

    I was in a store the other day, I was a customer, asking an employee a question, when the cell in his little holster went ding-dong and while still looking at me he grabbed it, flipped it, glanced at it, then said “just a sec” and began texting.

    I said “I see whomever you’re texting is more important than someone who actually CAME INTO THE STORE IN PERSON” and I walked out. On the way out, by the door, the “greeter” person (or security person, whatever) asked me – though I was empty handed – if I’d found everything all right. I said “I might have if your employee hadn’t decided to chat and text on his phone instead of helping me buy something.” and left. I think they were BOTH completely clueless about why I was bothered. After all, everyone does it, right?

  11. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Sadly, everyone (of a certain age) does seem to do it.

    We go to a fair number of concerts and live theater, as you know. I don’t know why I am surprised any more, but I still find it hard to understand what is so important about that incoming text (“OMG! WTF?”) that can’t wait an hour or two. Or are their lives that empty that they need the constant validation (“I got a text! Someone likes me!”) to make them feel better/wanted/in touch/alive?

    To me it’s sad.

    The thing that gets me is seeing older people – older than me, say 70+ – checking their cell phones too.

    To quote Brian Wilson, “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.”

  12. Richard says:

    Nothing, except perhaps a medical emergency, can’t wait an hour or two, in my opinion. Yes, I think their lives are empty, or they perceive them to be without that constant input.


  13. Patti Abbott says:

    There are few better writers than Graham Greene.

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