Seize the Opportunity to Throw One Back

I’m considering educating myself a little on Graham Greene and so, at the inspiration of a passage posted by Andrew Sullivan (“‘The Torturable Class’,” The Daily Dish, 26 July 2007), purchased a copy of Our Man in Havana. Christopher Hitchens wrote the introduction and — apropos an earlier post (“Booz-Hound Christopher Hitchens,” 28 June 2007) — he tells the following tale:

Graham Greene famously subdivided his fictions into ‘novels’ and ‘entertainments’ …

I should like to propose a third, or subcategory: the whisky (as opposed to the nonwhisky) fictions. Alcohol is seldom far from the reach of Greene’s characters, and its influence was clearly some kind of daemon in his work and in his life. A stanza of that witty and beautiful poem ‘On the Circuit,’ written in 1963, registers W. H. Auden’s dread at the thought of lecturing on a booze-free American campus and asks, anxiously and in italics:

Is this my milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in my bag
An analeptic swig?

Describing a visit to a 1987 conference of ‘intellectuals’ in Moscow in the early Gorbachev years, both Gore Vidal and Fay Weldon were to record Green making exactly this dive into his bottle-crammed briefcase.

Makes me think, as Nietzsche said, that all writing is autobiographical of a sort.