In Search of a Character
I accidentally became a collector of orange Penguins due to my thriftiness. Pragmatic to a fault, these cheap editions of classic books are now the first things my eyes scan for when I enter a charity shop or secondhand bookshop.
Which is how I came to buy In Search of a Character for 50 pence yesterday.
I don’t read biographies. Famous people hold little interest for me: unless, of course, they are writers. If you want to improve your writing, then writers are the best people to read. This doesn’t only go for their novels or ‘how to write’ books, but also their letters and diaries. I’m currently reading the letters of Jean Rhys, which are very enlightening, and devoured In Search of a Character in a couple of sittings.
Graham Greene kept these journals when travelling to Africa. They were never intended for publication, but were written because Greene found that he didn’t have a very good memory or visual imagination (he said this, not me). I was astounded by this fact, as Brighton Rock is one of the most perfectly described novels I’ve ever read. It just goes to show how important it is for a writer to take notes and do background research.
I really enjoyed reading them and will let Greene himself tell you why they are useful:
[…] they may have some interest as the kind of raw material a novelist accumulates. He goes through life discarding more than he retains, but the points he notes are what he considers of creative interest at the moment of occurrence.
I found it really interesting to have access to Greene’s thought processes while he was on the cusp of starting a novel and now want to read A Burnt-Out Case to see how these notes and workings out were translated into fiction.