Catholic Herald, 20 July 1990
Review: The Last Word and Other Stories by Graham Greene (Reinhardt Books, £11. 95).
It is more than 20 years since the last collection of Greene stories, May We Borrow Your Husband? was published. This new collection will interest the analyst of Greene’s development as a writer, since the stories (all but one have appeared in print before) are culled from a span of 60 years; the earliest was published in 1929, the most recent just last year.
But the admirer in search of the old magic will find this collection a disappointing job lot of stories that lack body and finishing power. The Last Word, for example, tells of some future Pope about to be executed as the last Christian on earth. The moderately ingenious idea fizzles out on a feeble punchline.
The reader who looks for Pinkie, Scobie or Wordsworth will find only shadowy characters with barely a wisp of the Greene genius to disguise their nakedness.
In The Lottery Ticket (first published in 1947) there are recognisable hints of the dust and dirt so brilliantly brought to fruition in The Power and The Glory – as if one were reading an author backwards. The pressures exerted on best-selling writers to dredge up even their juvenalia for publication must be well-nigh irresistible.
The collector of Greene’s work may be glad to add this volume to his shelf but personally, I am quite happy to re-read the old favourites.