Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Annoying Intro (copy)

It was a dark and stormy night, literally, as I opened my copy of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana. I began the book weeks ago, but just could not get past the introduction by Christopher Hitchens. Who is this character, and why should I care about what he thinks of the book?

Ah, after Googling him, and reading the passage in Wikipedia—where I recognized his photo—I learn he is a British author, journalist, and critic. His latest book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, was number one on the “New York Times” bestseller’s list in 2006. Hum?

Okay, so he’s a big man in Britain, but boy he is boring. I promise, I tried for a week to read the introduction—16 pages—but fell asleep around page nine. Instead of leading into the book, which a person of sound dictionary knowledge would think meant by introduction, he talks about the book in a critical manner. He quotes different parts of the book and what they mean to him.

I understand the reasoning behind asking a noted author and critic to write an introduction for a classic. Publishers believe the sheer act of having a modern writer’s name attached to a classic will encourage sales. Unfortunately, if the author is as pretentious as our Mr. Hitchens, the reader may not benefit from reading the actual book. The words give up come to mind.

Well, back to the dark and stormy night, I was scared. The initial line of thunderstorms, wind shears, and tornados had missed our town, but another line was to pass through after bedtime. It had started to rain, so I hunkered down in bed and began Our Man in Havana in earnest, enough of Hitchens.

The fire-department radio siren was signaling a severe weather alert and I was giggling at the book. Seems our hero, Mr. Wormold, is a vacuum cleaner salesman, and his new line of vacuums includes the Atomic Pile. One astute customer wants to know if it will absorb all radio activity including Strontium 90. As the car alarm sounds under the carport, I am miles away on a Cuban street. I happened to be reading about the wolf whistles which Wormold hears as his 16-year-old daughter, Milly, makes her way through the streets.

Seems I can be lost in Havana with Greene—so much so, I ignore a raging storm—or I can be bored to tears with Hitchens. In a storm I’ll take Greene any day.