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Henry Green wrote his autobiography in 1940, aged only thirty-five, because he was convinced he wouldn't survive the war. The result is a delightfully wayward and incisive portrait of English society and of the man himself. From reminiscences of a childhood spent among the gentry, to searing descriptions of Eton and Oxford, to reflections on the author's first experiments with prose and with sex, all Green's unique talents as a writer are on offer here, at their most dazzling and accessible.
Green, the late British writer (1905-1973) whose quirky novels, laced with incessant dialogue and swirling descriptions, earned him the regard of exacting stylists like John Updike but only a marginal place in the 20th-century canon, is suddenly in vogue. Compared to the heady concoctions of his novels-- Loving, Living, Party Going etc.--this ``mid-term autobiography'' (as Green's son Sebastian Yorke calls it in his fine introduction) is rather weak tea. Still, for Green aficionados, these recollections will have to do until a biography comes around. As a novelist, Green was known for his aesthetic immersion in the sounds of his characters. Similarly, Pack My Bag has a studied indifference to the personal--rare in autobiography, but somehow appropriate for Green. Written on the eve of WW II, the book conveys a poignant gloom. In the second half, after Green concludes the presentation of his childhood and school years, he talks more about his own writing. Of particular interest is his comparison of several attempts--over a five-year period--to render a certain mood in prose. Clearly evident is Green's peculiar, wayward genius.