james wood on henry green


To devotees of Henry Green, it seems extraordinary that a writer who gives so much pleasure should remain so essentially neglected: the unstopping, tissueless sentences travelling without delay of punctuation – those sentences which seem to drop a stitch and unravel just as you thought you were sewing up their meaning (“We lived here in the early years, in soft lands and climate influenced by the Severn, until my grandfather died and we moved to the big house a mile nearer the river where it went along below the garden”); the metaphors and similes, which float the strangest, rarest likenesses (a character’s eyes catching the light “like plums dipped in cold water”); the psychological subtlety, with its deep, delicate understanding of tragicomic fantasy; the authorial tact, content to let the reader move without explanatory signals, so that, as Coleridge said of Shakespeare, his characters “like people in real life, are to be inferred by the reader”; and above all the genius for speech, especially working-class, regional, and dialect speech, perhaps the greatest facility for the writing of dialogue in twentieth-century English fiction (less hammy than Kipling, more various than Lawrence, more inventive than Pritchett).

more from the TLS here.