Lodge about Sherry on Greene
In Lives in Writing, David Lodge reviews Norman Sherry's third volume on Graham Greene, The Life of Graham Greene, Volume 3: 1956-1991:
Sherry's book is self-indulgently and often eccentrically written. The discourse is frequently broken up into short sections consisting of a paragraph or two, separated by asterisks, which disrupt the cohesion of the narrative and afford the biographer too much freedom for digression and superfluous comment. Mixed metaphors run amok (e.g., "When Greene writes a letter to the press, it's a lightning rod for shoals of letters to be poured out in answer, swords drawn"). Similes often baffle (e.g., "Had he failed this couple, he'd have been as ashamed as a nudist caught with his clothes on"). Sometimes, like Nabokov's Kinbote in Pale Fire, Sherry addresses the startled reader directly: "Don't you feel that at times, writing a novel was for him a disease?" Toward the end of the book there are lurid disquisitions on the horror of death which seem to tell us more about the biographer than his subject. Either Sherry has been poorly served by his editors or he has ignored their advice.The oddest thing about Sherry's weird sentences is that he must have worked hard to hone their flaws to perfection.
Take the madly mixed metaphors of "When Greene writes a letter to the press, it's a lightning rod for shoals of letters to be poured out in answer, swords drawn." The metaphors in this sentence surely required hard work and a certain ingenuity to get them all so god-awful wrong. Graham's letter is a lightning rod? The letters that attack his are schools of fish? Fish that are poured out . . . of what? Clouds, maybe -- remember that lightning rod? These fish have swords? And these swords are drawn? Good heavens and thunderation! I'm afraid to step outside!
Or consider the meaning of "Had he failed this couple, he'd have been as ashamed as a nudist caught with his clothes on." Eh? Does this imply that Greene would or would not feel ashamed?
As for "Don't you feel that at times, writing a novel was for him a disease?" I don't know that Greene's writing is pathological, but Sherry's might well be!