by Eric James Miller
Graham Greene, the scholar, author, adventurer, spy and sometimes rogue is one of my all-time favorite authors. Today, October 2nd, 2014 would have been his 110th birthday.
As a high school student I had to read several of Greene’s early novels for my English classes and each one captivated me and demonstrated the power of ideas mixed in with story. In many ways, he compelled me to look beyond my cozy life in a posh Maryland suburb outside Washington, D.C. and experience life not from a safe distance but from the rails of the roller coaster itself.
I still remember, in vivid detail, being stuck on a remote mountainside in the Austrian Alps in 1985 cursing … and thanking … Greene for giving me the courage to hike up a mountain I very nearly was unable to survive descending back down. A calm, reflective peace wrapped its arms around me and I sat there not afraid to die because I knew I had already lived the adventure of a lifetime.
I discovered Greene right on the heels of Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha” and his “A Journey WIthout Maps” (1936) made me feel like I was walking right next to him in the halcyon daze that griped most of the European intelligentsia prior to WWII. I devoured his first novel “The Man Within”, then “The Confidential Agent”, “The Third Man” and “Twenty-one Stories” on my own prior to being assigned to read “The Power and the Glory” and “Getting to Know the General” in the following semester.
When I finally got to “The Quiet American” and “The Tenth Man” I was pretty sure I wanted to be a spy.
And a writer who didn’t write about just other people’s adventures and exploits.
The fact that the Internet Movie Database lists at least 66 titles based on Greene’s novels did not surprise me when I read his bio on wikiepedia this morning. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Greene) He painted his main characters like innocent victims of the moral decay and political circumstances surrounding them and the reluctant, morally challenged hero archetype is one that Hollywood has loved ever since the very first frames of cellulose nitrate began sputtering through cameras and projectors.
I thank my Barnes & Noble Desk Diary for highlighting the fact that today, 110 years ago, one of my all-time favorite authors was born. Most writers know who their literary heroes and inspirations are and when pressed will spout off their favorite novels in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I know from my own experience, many writers don’t afford themselves the luxury of acknowledging those early inspirations. Or take the opportunity to re-discover them.
Well, Graham, this year at least, I am tipping my hat to you. I hope other writers will do the same to their literary inspirations.
As I look ahead at famous literary birthdays in the month of October, I see there are at least half a dozen authors that no doubt inspired many writers like me who are putting ink to paper, or turning keystrokes into pixels today. To name a few October notables other than Graham Greene: Anne Rice, ee cummings, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing and Sylvia Plath.
If anyone would like to write their own happy birthday acknowledgement to any of them, or any other author, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking for helpful and inspirational submissions to the WSN blog and happy to post your byline, too.
(Eric James Miller is a freelance writer working in Las Vegas and the President of Writers of Southern Nevada. He is also the author of the For Rent Mystery Series and the Graham Greene-esque road story “The Metaphysics of Nudity”. To see what he’s been working on lately visit his new, work-in-progress website: ww.ericjamesmiller.com)