Daniel Green at The Quarterly Conversation:
In 1959, Terry Southern conducted (for The Paris Review) the most substantial extant interview with the British novelist Henry Green. Southern actually did most of the talking (almost as if he were a Henry Green character), with Green rather diffidently agreeing with Southern’s remarks, offering some fairly circumspect reflections on his work that are nevertheless revealing enough to make the interview worthwhile. What is most interesting about this interview, however, is that Southern is participating in it. He is not a writer one immediately thinks of as influenced by or particularly sympathetic to a novelist of manners of the sort Henry Green represents. That he clearly admired Green’s work should persuade us to reconsider the perceived practice of both writers, but perhaps especially Green, since the terms and categories that are typically used to assess his fiction have not really done justice to its sustained, if subtle subversions of the form, style, and subjects it ostensibly adopts.
It is understandable that Green’s novels might be regarded as comedies of manners similar to those produced by such writers of Green’s generation as Evelyn Waugh or Elizabeth Bowen. They are by and large novels about groups of people as they interact in a specific social setting, frequently, but not always, an upper middle or upper-class setting, whose habitual behaviors are scrupulously depicted. Formally, they proceed almost entirely through what Henry James called the “scenic method,” narrative progression through scenes, with exposition and description usually subordinated to dialogue.