By DWIGHT GARNER writing in The New York Times, Published: December 9, 2008
“Don’t make your books any shorter, please,” Graham Greene implored his friend Muriel Spark in a 1974 letter, “or you’ll disappear like Beckett.”
A Life in Letters
Edited by Richard Greene
Illustrated. 446 pages. W. W. Norton & Company. $35.
(UK - Little Brown pds20)
Times Topics: Graham Greene
Greene himself didn’t want to disappear, even briefly, from anyone’s radar screen; throughout his long life he was determinedly prolific. He published more than 25 novels, among them near-masterpieces like “The Power and the Glory” (1940) and “The End of the Affair” (1951). He wrote four books of autobiography, three travel books, a book of verse and nearly 20 plays and screenplays. Greene also issued, as if he kept a Mini-Me in his attaché case, a relentless stream of other material: essays, newspaper reportage, short stories, film and book reviews. The jobbing writer and the artist in him were sometimes at war with each other (Greene wrote a lot of guff), but just as often they effortlessly intertwined.On top of all this, it turns out, Greene (1904-1991) was committed to yet another genre: he was among the 20th century’s most obsessive letter writers. He dashed off or dictated some 2,000 letters or postcards each year, posting them to family, friends, lovers, editors, agents and a galaxy of fellow writers, including Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen, Anthony Powell, John Betjeman, R. K. Narayan, Vaclav Havel, Kurt Vonnegut and Shirley Hazzard. The to-and-fro of these letters, a kind of intellectual tennis, seemed to keep his color and spirits high.
The full piece - NYT