Wednesday, May 21, 2014

existential ennui Westlake's Parker & Graham Greene's Raven

Graham Greene


Ed here: I was trying to find a piece by David Thomson on Graham Greene my  favorite writer when I came across this. A letter on a piece by Donald Westlake about Peter Rabe struck me as pretty cogent take on Graham Greene's Raven and Westlake's Parker. The piece on EXistential Ennui was sold but even better was this letter in Comments.

Chris said...
Haven't read the essay yet, Ethan--Westlake referenced "This Gun for Hire" (he used the American title) in the third of his Sam Holt novels. Once I read Greene's novel, I knew that Parker was, to some extent, a romanticized (and vastly more effective) Raven--see, Greene was a moralist, but not much of a romantic--Stark reverses that polarity. The stories of TGFH and The Hunter unfold along quite similar lines, but to much different effect.

As to the diagnosis, Greene provides that, you might say, when he compares Raven to a mangy wolf in a cage. Remove the mange (and the harelip), add a few pounds of muscle, give him a better diet, a whole lot more self-understanding and control, and you have Parker. Parker is what Raven wishes he could be. And even so, he remains an enigma, which I agree is a primary source of his lingering appeal. And perhaps the reason they still haven't made a movie that gets him even halfway right. Raven's arguably had better luck there, even though they always edit out the harelip. And the British accent.
But Nick's got me really curious to read more Rabe (just one early book so far, they're not so easy to find), to see how much Parker owes to him as well. And honestly, just for his own sake. I'm running out of Westlakes to read. :)


Anonymous said...

Very insightful comment.

The Parker novels can be brutal, occasionally sad, but they make no attempt to reach for the sorrowful tragedy that dominates TGFH and which plays a role in so much of Greene's work.

In my experience Greene's fine prose always reaches its most polished apex just as the book reaches its deepest level of tragedy, so that I find myself having to put the book down for a moment at the point where Greene is at the peak of his craft. This was especially true with TGFH.

John Hocking

Ray Garraty said...

More from Chris on Parker/Raven dichotomy:

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

For anyone interested, the link to the relevant post is here:

Westlake on Rabe

but more importantly, Chris now has his own blog, which is well worth a look:

The Westlake Review

Thanks Ed,