graham is in pico’s head


Iyer, a journalist and world traveler, the author of seven books of nonfiction and two novels, begins his own memoir this way: “I was standing by the window in the Plaza Hotel, looking out.” Where is this Plaza Hotel? In New York? Hardly. It’s in La Paz, Bolivia, a country where Iyer and a friend nearly died in a car crash on a mountain road one New Year’s Day. And who is Iyer? The answer to that question unfolds in the ensuing pages, emerging from behind a scrim of other characters — not only Greene, but the author’s philosopher father, Raghavan Iyer, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as Iyer’s old traveling companions and school friends and the women he has encountered along the way. Iyer is far from the first Greenite to write about this prolific figure, whose long and illustrious career encompassed scores of novels, essays, short stories and plays. Greene’s official biographer, Norman Sherry, devoted more than 2,000 pages, gathered in three volumes, to an exploration of the author’s boyhood and manhood, his conflicted Roman Catholicism, his love affairs and friendships, his devious psychology. Greene teased out the knotted skein of attitudes that tangled his psyche in his published works, whose overall theme can be usefully (if reductively) condensed to the sentence that appears in his play “Carving a Statue,” in which a sculptor describes the subject that shapes his work: “My indifference and the world’s pain.”

more from Liesl Schillinger at the NY Times here.