Graham Greene: The Artist as Critic


89 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919966-40-3





Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


Elizabeth Davis’s title, though in one sense accurate enough, is ultimately misleading. The title of her University of London Ph.D. thesis (of which this book is presumably a brief summary) is given in her bibliography and, though wordy, might have been more suitable: “The Development of Graham Greene as Reflected in His Non-Fiction Writings.” But even that isn’t quite right: her real subject appears to be Greene’s novels as approached through his critical concerns. The emphasis is not, as we might reasonably expect, on Greene’s critical capacities as such (whether literary, social, political, or otherwise). We learn little concerning the numerous books he reviewed over the years, and even less about what he thought of them.

The book is harmless enough, but it operates in a rather low key. The chapter titles are arresting (“Metaphysical Learning,” “Melodrama as Mode,” etc.) but unfortunately never quite deliver what they promise. Davis touches on the typical Greene concerns — his independent Catholicism, his interest in international politics and espionage, his social concerns — but we get no clear impression of how his mind works, how he argues, what his critical principles really are. I finished the text with a feeling that I ought to have learned much more from it than I actually did.

This is a very brief book: 62 pages of text with 21 pages of notes and a (decidedly selective) bibliography. It is printed direct from camera-ready copy, so it gives the impression of being type rather than print. Reasons of economy doubtless dictated this decision, but the result is unattractive.


Davis, Elizabeth, “Graham Greene: The Artist as Critic,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,