Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Am Not You, Graham Greene

I hear a little voice inside me whenever I read a great novel. The voice asks, “Could you, Webster, ever write this?” The voice doesn’t answer. It doesn’t have to. The question alone convinces me: No, I could not write this. 

The voice spoke up again yesterday afternoon as I rounded the halfway point of Graham Greene’s short novel The End of the Affair. Here there is a dramatic shift of perspective. By a ruse of the novelist, the love affair in question is suddenly seen through her eyes, not his. 

The depth psychology, as it would have been called in Greene’s day, is remarkable. The twists and turns of her thinking, as she contemplates love of man, love of God, her own shortcomings and subterfuges . . . No, I could not write this.

Such an inner voice probably is not unusual. The weekend painter must hear the same voice in front of a Rembrandt, or the small-time entrepreneur when faced with the phenomenon of Steve Jobs. Maybe you have heard this voice in your life, love, vocation, avocation.

In my case, I can say for sure that this voice, while convincing as the devil, leaves me short of the truth. My truth, anyway.

I am not called to write The End of the Affair. And thank God. Greene was bipolar. Like me, he had issues—his own. Desires—his own. A calling—his own.

Some might call this still, small, devilish voice in me a reality check, as in, Get over yourself, Webster, you will never write a novel like that! And of course I agree. It is a reality check. It checks, holds at arm’s length, mars the reality of myself, my heart, my calling. 

It is selling myself short, as God made me in the particular circumstances of my life, with the particular desires of my heart.

One of those desires was to write this post. Would Graham Greene ever have written it? No, he would not. But I just did.

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