Friday, October 13, 2017

The Last Word and other Stories by Graham Greene

 Cooler weather is finally here.  This means reading and writing on the backyard swing with my ever present cuppa cuppa.

Yesterday I read an article in the Washington Post
about the concert pianist Martha Argerich.  It was written last December right before she was to received a Kennedy Center Honor.  

She is a fascinating woman.  Her life is chaotic, sleeping until two p.m. and practicing the piano until the wee hours of the morning, when she practices at all.  Her children would be seen sleeping under the piano.

  Ms. Argerich has a photographic memory and only needs to hear a piece once and can then play it perfectly.

This may or may not be true.  Non musicians are always trying to wrap famous musicians in sensationalist auras of genius.  Otherwise they probably would not be so interesting to read about.  

I'm not sure I could live around someone whose day is that unstructured.

It's also depressing to know that some people can memorize instantly.  Rosa Levine, Van Cliburn's teacher, explained her method of memorizing music.  She went out for a walk to the park, reading the musical work she was going to perform.  By the time she returned to the house, it was memorized.

Little old me struggles to memorize a single page in a week. Then I must daily reinforce what I have previously learned in addition to learning new material.

People ask if you're fine, and you say that you're fine, but you're not really fine....

Actually it depressed me to know that I am such a slow learner until I started practicing.  Then I realized I didn't care because I love spending so much time learning music because it means I am surrounding myself with beautiful sounds all that much longer.

I hope you will enjoy listening to Argerich perform Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E miner Op. 11.
By the way, if you're wondering what the numbers and letters mean in a title of music.  Piano is, of course, the instrument the musical work is written for.  Concerto means that it is written for solo instrument and orchestra in Sonata Form ( Three separate songs or movements written in ABA, The first movement is fast, the second movement slow and the third fast again).

No. 1 means it is the first piano concerto Chopin wrote, he wrote it in the key of E miner and Opus 11 means it is the 11th work that Chopin has written for any instrument.  
Maybe you found the above interesting, enlightening or boring, but nevertheless there it is and there it stays.

But this is a book review lest we forget:

The Last Word and Other StoriesThe Last Word and Other Stories by Graham Greene

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Graham Greene is a relatively new discovery for me and I have come to enjoy his writing very much.

I read this book while flying to Colorado to visit my sister over Labor Day.  This is a collection of short stories that range from a dystopian future to a psychological murder mystery. I will review just a few of the thirteen stories.


The Last Word is about a man who has lost his memory from an explosion due to some kind of war. He has been living the last twenty years alone and on bread. His neighbors are as suspicious of him as they are of each other. It is apparent that a totalitarian regime has been ruling the country.

One day, for some reason, he is escorted from his tiny apartment by a guard who takes him to the general. As the story progresses we find out who this lonely man is and why the dictator wants to see him.

This particular story shows the power of the Spiritual world and how no physical world can defeat it. There are many surprises and the ending brings a final surprise that enforces St. Paul's assertion, "Death, where is they sting? Grave where is they victory?"

The Lottery is about an Englishman who only visits out of the way places such as a tiny village in Mexico. While there he wins the state lottery which is quite a bit of money even by English standards. He doesn't want the money and is embarrassed that he should take money from such an impoverished province, so he donates it back to the state to use for good works. One can imagine the outcome or how the state defines, "good works".

Murder for the Wrong Reason
is about a murder narrated by the Chief of Police. His conclusions about the perpetrator brings an unexpected conclusion.

Finally, An Appointment with the General is about an arrogant French journalist for a socialist magazine that goes to a Latin American country to interview the general who runs the country. She thinks she is going to intimidate the general by accusing him of not being "socialist enough". She finds the tables quickly turned on her.

All the stories are fascinating to read made all the more so by Graham's fluid writing.  I recommend them to all fans of Greene's writing or people who would like to become fans of one of the last centuries foremost authors.

View all my reviews


  1. I have read several of his novels but have never looked into his short stories. Perhaps it's time...

    1. Hi Fred. I certainly enjoyed them. My copy is with my sister in Denver. I hope I don't regret my generosity.

  2. Hi Sharon- Martha Argerich is indeed talented. The folks who memorize music and then perform it so well are truly astonishing. Their brains seem to be wired differently from others.

    I have not read Greene but it sounds like I would like him.

    Great commentary as always.

    1. Thanks Brian. I think you would enjoy Greene. In fact you would probably give a great review about him. I hope you read him one day and do that because I'd like to know your thoughts about his writing. Have a great weekend!

  3. "Fluid writing" pins it down well... GG is enjoyable as a relief of sorts from other types of literature; he seems always to have something to say and never conveys it in a hack handed manner... one has the sense of being in the place he happens to be describing, without feeling like you've been dragged there by the scruff of the neck: gentlemanly, i guess you'd say...
    lovely piano music... i don't know much about differences between pianists, but she sounded good to me... incidentally, i had the same trouble memorizing music; i'd think i had a piece down, and a week later i'd have forgotten it... aggravating...

    1. Mudpuddle:

      Well, it can be humbling reading about the greats like Argerich, but you and I can still enjoy making music to the best of our ability. There is something about learning and performing music that is so satisfying, even more so than listening to others...although listening to wonderful music is an indispensable part of my day.

    2. i like teapots: yours is quite Lewis Carrollish... and i can tell that Hercule knows my deepest thoughts: a bird of superior intellect...

    3. I had not thought that about my tea pot, Mudpuddle, but I see it now that you mention. That makes me like it even more.

      What I really want to do is show Hercaloo struggle to get over to my cell phone which is when I pick it up and move it out of reach. That's when she puffs her whole head up in raptor rage. I'd like to make a video of this with Kate Perry's voice over (people ask if you're fine...etc)

      I certainly hope you're doing fine Mudpuddle. Hercaloo would know if she met you. She's very perceptive.

  4. Sounds interesting. I recently read Greene for the first time (The Heart of the Matter), didn't love the story, but he certainly has some skill as a writer. I think I'll add him to my short story TBR.

    1. Hi Joseph. I'm a new reader to Greene myself but I am enjoying him. Let me know when you write a review.

  5. It seems many of the great composers/performers have/had that ability to memorize easily, but I think it probably is still a very small percentage of the population who can do that. Great music choice, she plays beautifully. I noticed your teapot, too, so cute!

    1. Hi Marcia. I am fascinated by people can memorize instantly like that. I am a slow learner, but I will say that I enjoy the learning process so it's not all negative.

      I have a weakness for cute teapots and tea cozies. :)


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.