sad to think that actually happened. I don’t hold nothing in me. “And then there are times I just laugh. I don’t understand how they [director Paul Randolph-Johnson and South African actress Janet Maimane] did it without asking me. But my friend Velma? In the play? Now that’s Velma to a “T”. Velma would come out she always used the word “bitchy” look at me and say “I’m gon’ look real bitchy in this dress.” In the play she’s switching in this red dress and acting just like Velma! And that white lady [who plays one of Annie Mae’s affluent employers], if she ain’t Mrs. Norrell. She’d tell me, ‘Annie Mae, I want you to do soandsoandsoandso.’ Sometimes she’d say the same thing four or five times. At one time she had a rock porch with all this good looking stuff on it she’d brought from England. She said, `Annie Mae be very careful with this, ’cause I don’t want nothing to happen to it.’ When she came to tell me the same thing over, damned if she ain’t dropped something herself and broke it.’ ” Annie Mae Hunt is pleased that her children and Winegarten’s children intend to keep the book and the play alive. She has willed all rights she retains to her grandson and her youngest daughter. She insists they won’t ever let the story die. A few even plan to write related works and will thus “keep it moving at all times.” Efforts are underway to get the play produced by a Chicago regional theatre. And Naomi Carrier is determined that at least one of her songs, “Comin’ up from Texas,” will be sung all the way to Broadway. One of the final songs in the play is “I’m Going Back to the Country.” Because of its placement, the song seems to suggest that Annie Mae, Ruth, and Naomi believe that black people, as a community, need to understand their origins and look to them for strength. Annie Mae says that is what she believes: “Seem like people ought to realize where they come from. Go back sometimes, if ain’t no more than in your mind, and see where you come from and what’s happening there. Cause like they say in the play, people have everything there.” “I like this instant coffee,” Annie Mae says, steadily watching the street from her fully draped windows, “and I always heat the water and don’t think, just grab it up. Then I drop it. So for the last six months or so I’ve been telling myself, ‘Annie Mae you must think before you grab anything, you’re gon’ get in serious trouble.’ ” She squints, “Now I got plenty guts still, but I ain’t got much more good time here. And I speak about it plainly and don’t feel nothing when I say that, cause it’s true. It finally gets you. Iron wears out. So bring me a cheap pair of slippers to put on my feet sometimes. Bring me a flower to go in my hair and tell me how pretty I’m looking. But I’m not gon’ stop, ’cause I’m planning on it stoppin’ me. I’m not gon’ rust out; I’m gon’ wear out!” BY BRYCE MILLIGAN THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE VOLUME I: 1904-1939 By Norman Sherry Viking, 1989 783 pages, $29.95 BRITISH NOVELIST Graham Greene once said that a good writer needed to have a “chip of ice” in his heart. Greene’s biographer, Norman Sherry, has extracted that crystal splinter and a great deal more for all the world to examine. Truly a monument to the biographer’s art, Sherry’s The Life of Graham Greene is being hailed in British reviews as the work of a new Boswell. Currently the Mitchell Distinguished Professor of English at Trinity University in San Antonio, Sherry commented recently, paraphrasing Boswell, that he had no desire to “cut off Graham’s claws, nor make a cat of a tiger.” In fact, the authorized biographer has taken great pains to show us all of Greene’s foibles, their actual origins and their repercussions in his fiction. Not that the work presents a negative picture of the writer; it presents an excessively accurate picture. Few of us know as much about our own lives as Norman Sherry tells us about the life of Graham Greene. But Sherry has sought to chronicle more than just the life of a great writer. The first volume of his biography is as insightful a history of pre-World War II England as has ever been written. When complete, the twovolume Life of Graham Greene will constitute a single mind’s comprehension of most of the 20th century. Interestingly, Sherry came to the masterful grasp of his subject’s life and thoughts not by interviewing Greene, though some interviews did take place, but by retracing the author’s very steps. This process led Sherry to some harrowing adventures. In Sierra Leone he came down with tropical diabetes which very nearly killed him. Shortly thereafter he was in a car accident which temporarily blinded him. In neighboring Liberia, Sherry encountered police officers who demanded bribes with a gun placed to his temple. In Chiapas, Mexico, Sherry came down with dysentery while staying in the same boarding house where Greene had caught the disease some Bryce Milligan is a San Antonio writer and the editor of Vortex: A Critical Review. 40 years earlier. But before Sherry took up Greene’s trail around the globe, he first examined the heart of the matter Greene’s troubled childhood and adolescence. The accumulation of details is astonishing, their significance to Greene’s fiction no less so. Take for instance the time Greene’s sister’s dog was run over by a carriage. Greene’s nanny found the dog and brought it home in the pram along with Greene. Months later, the tot’s first words were “poor dog.” Sherry points out the scene in The Confidential Agent where the hero recalls such a childhood face-to-face encounter with a dead cat. “Knowledge of death came early to Graham Greene,” Sherry writes tersely. And we believe him. Analyzing Greene’s tormented schooldays at Berkhamsted School, Sherry tracked down nearly 30 of Greene’s schoolmates the Old Boys. The biographer reports that it took over three years to research the chapter on Berkhamsted. The effort was wellwarranted, because the picture of Greene as a child explains much. A terribly shy, sensitive boy who once wondered whether daisies felt pain when he stepped on them, he was horrified by the coarse behavior of his Old Boy schoolmates. By his own account, Greene attributed his interest in espionage, and his fascination with the theme of betrayal, to his days at Berkhamsted where he was persecuted by boys who tried to divide the loyalties of the headmaster’s son. Eventually Greene began experimenting with suicide. His rather pathetic first attempts \(drinking his hay-fever drops, for instance, or eating an entire tin of hair and even in his 20’s by periodic rounds of Russian roulette. Given the number of times he attempted it, Greene must be the luckiest man alive. THE IDEA of tempting fate is an informing aspect of Greene’s conversion from atheism to the Catholic faith. While he found God and Heaven dubious propositions at best, he found the notion of Hell to be “exciting.” He became a Catholic initially to satisfy the requirements of his fiancee, later espousing a rational acceptance of the tenets of Catholicism. But Sherry sees through this A Journey Without Maps 18 AUGUST 18, 1989
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