Mean Greene Machine

greene.jpgTravels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

Sometime in the late 1960s (1969 to be exact), when Philip Roth was ripping it up with raw liver, Graham Greene -- lauded, praised, lionized - kicked back and created one of his greatest "entertainments," Travels with My Aunt. He has confessed in interviews that this was his most pleasurable writing experience, and all I can say, as a reader, it certainly delivers on the pleasure principal. Interestingly, Greene's Aunt Augusta calls to mind that other great literary free-wheeling aunt of mid-century, Auntie Mame. But Augusta's not merely an eccentric globe-hopper. Aged yet spry, her relations are deep, dark, and strange -- as is her relationship with the narrator, surely the most milquetoasty, recently retired, dahlia-cultivating, bachelor bank manager in literature.

To say this fellow's up for a life-altering journey is like saying Romanee-Conti is a decent wine with pasta. An understatement. In short order, Greene's narrator's mother's ashes are swapped for marijuana by a sweet-talking West-Indian gigolo, he finds out they weren't even exactly his mother's ashes, and Scotland Yard (not to mention Interpol and the C.I.A.) is hot on the trail. Laughs ensue, as do crackpot C.I.A. agents, backpackers to Himalaya, art thiefs, Amazon principalities, revolutions, smuggling, and, of course, a religion by and for pets, based in, of course, one of Great Britain's world-renowned beach resorts. And, not to give anything away, Greene wraps it up with a resonant, satisfying ending. Beach reading? Yes, especially if the beach you're planning on visiting is in Brighton or Hove.

'Til next time... Ken Krimstein Ken.jpgMr. Krimstein is a professor, writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who now lives in Chicago, formerly in New York City. So there.