The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Graham Greene is an excellent writer, and one of my favorites. Somehow I managed to avoid reading The Heart of the Matter until recently, because I’d gotten the impression that it was pretty awful along the same liens as The End of the Affair.

It is in fact a not-very-good book. It starts out promisingly: a civil servent, determined to behave well and do the right thing, finds himself slipping inexorably into corruption. This could be the basis of a pretty good Greene-flavored moral story. Then it takes a left turn into crazy Catholic-theological-mechanics territory, so abotu a third of the book is navelgazing about confession and states of grace and (to an alarming degree) Communion. This worked in The Power and the Glory because the character in question was so instrumentally involved in the sacrements and so very flawed. It’s hard for a non-Catholic to care, though, when the character who is doing all the soul-searching and agonizing is so remote from the Catholic mechanisms he’s spending so much angst on.

It could actually have been a decent book, if it’d focused less on Mortal Sin and more on good old-fashioned human guilt.

See also: Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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