Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Forty Days of Lent: Day Twenty-One

The Green Man
Kingsley Amis

Maurice Allington, the owner of The Green Man, a hotel near London that coasts on its charm, has some problems.  Some mundane, some serious, though it’s doubtful if Maurice can tell the difference.  His teenage daughter is estranged from him.  His hotel guests are annoying.  He’s firmly in the middle of middle age.  He’s begun seeing things, apparitions around his hotel, brought on either by his alcoholism or ghosts, though it’s doubtful Maurice can tell the difference.  He’s actually most concerned with trying to convince his wife to have a threesome with him and his mistress.

I washed down two more pills with heavily watered Scotch and went straight to bed, having locked up the casket in the office.  I needed what sleep I could get, with a funeral and an orgy ahead, and no doubt, something more.    

Sex, death, drinking, unease.  These are the concerns of The Green Man, Kingsley Amis’ ghost story and study of middle age ennui. Its supernatural elements are more eerie than scary, the model seeming to be the British ghost story rather than American-style horror.  It is also very funny:

“Yes. Well.  There we are.  I must go and see the major,” said the man of God, so rapidly and decisively and so immediately before his actual departure that seeing the major (even though there was a retired one actually present) might have been a […] family euphemism for excretion. 

The Green Man is an examination of the difference between boorish bad behavior and real malice.  Maurice is merely selfish, there’s no real malevolence to him.  The difference is easy to miss until the reader and Maurice come face to face with real evil, real horror.  Yet because this is a comedy, albeit a grim one, such horror is recognized and vanquished and something of a happy ending is achieved.  A treat.  

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