The lives of Henry Vincent Yorke
Sarah Nicole Prickett
by Henry Green
New York Review Books Classics
$14 List Price
I WAS HALFWAY through a biography of Patricia Highsmith that said her hero among her contemporaries was a novelist with the last name Green, and so the next time I was in Mercer Street Books I went right to the G's, stopping when I found a volume that must be what I was looking for, because it had the name Green on the mint spine of a Penguin Twentieth Century Classic and because the names of the three novels on it arrested me. After I had read Loving, Living, and Party Going, then everything else by the author, and then begun writing what you're reading, I realized that in the used bookstore I had conflated the name of Julien Green, the French American novelist who inspired Highsmith, with that of Henry James, whom she imitated, to arrive by surprise at one of the great writers in English: Henry Green, who made his work with these kinds of mishearings, and of whom I had never even heard.
This is a variation on the way things about Green usually start: with a complaint that other people don't know (of) him. Mostly they don't. At the midcentury end of his career, Green gave an interview to his friend Terry Southern and found himself introduced in the Paris Review as "a writer's writer's writer," which sealed his fate: He's always getting introduced where he should be reintroduced, as if we didn't catch his name the first time. Yet it's less that Green is forgotten than that he was never knowable. He was a bright young thing descended from blue bloods in a time of the yellow fog everywhere, a factory boss and womanizer who wrote best of workers and of women, a modernist who
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