Just finished Graham Green's autobiography A Sort of Life in which he describes the first 27 years of his life.
I most enjoyed learning:
1. Greene enjoyed playing Russian Roulette with himself. he would hold a gun with only one cartridge to his head and shoot. Greene enjoyed the sensational feeling of escaping death. Who doesn't?
2. Greene is a famous Catholic and I had always assumed he found God in the heart of some jungle, but no. He took an interest in the church because of a girl (who later became his wife). His priest was a jovial, ex-actor named Father Trollope. Greene writes, "What had these monks, with an obligation to dwell in all their sermons and retreats on the reality of hell, in common with this stout cheerful man who loved the smell of grease paint and the applause at a curtain fall? Perhaps nothing except the desire to drown. A few years later he was dead of cancer."
3. Greene smoked opium. I figured he did after reading The Quiet American, but one can never be too sure.
4. Greene went to therapy at the turn of the century after a few weak suicide attempts and a clumsy escape from home.
5. He wrote 500 words a day. Less than I would have expected for his output was impressive. He had 3 published, lengthy books under his belt by 27 though he felt they were all poor imitations of Conrad. He wrote in the morning and worked at The Times from 4 to 11pm.
6. Greene was drunk for about a year in university. He even showed up to an academic ceremony drunk. "But I have cause to be thankful for that spell of alcoholism. It left me with a strong head and a tough liver. 'Mithridates he died old.'"
7. On writing exciting scenes: "Excitement is a situation, a single event. It mustn't be wrapped up in thoughts, similes, metaphors. Action can only be expressed by a subject, verb and an object, perhaps a rhythm--little else."