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The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer

The Man Within My Head

by Pico Iyer

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THE MAN WITHIN MY HEAD is the first book I've read by Pico Iyer, although I have been aware of his work for years, having run across his books in the travel section of stores. I learned of this book through an excerpt from it that ran in The New Yorker. It picqued my interest enough to order the book, mainly because I've been a reader of Graham Greene for probably 40 years - have read six or seven Greene books, perhaps, and some of them more than once.

I expected more of a memoir here than I got. The book's blurbs suggested it was much about Iyer and his father, who had been a much respected university professor and lecturer in California, after achieving notoriety for his brilliance even as a college student in India and England. But there's not really that much about the elder Iyer, or much more, really, about the author himself. Nevertheless this is an at times fascinating account of the importance of Graham Greene as a role model and an influence in Iyer's life. I would classify it as a literary anyalytic work on a very personal level, as Iyer managed to find many parallels between his own life and that of the much older Greene, who he never met. But his knowledge of Greene and his oeuvre is encyclopedic, enhanced as it has been by not just close readings of his books but also by by talks with many people who knew Greene and also with some of Greene's family members.

So while I was a bit disappointed in the book as a memoir, it did manage to reignite my interest in Greene and his many books. Although I've already read THE QUIET AMERICAN, now I kinda want to read it again, given the emphasis Iyer puts on that one particular book. Other Greene books I personally loved were THE POWER AND THE GLORY, THE HUMAN FACTOR and A BURNT-OUT CASE. There are certainly plenty more Greene books to keep me busy for a long time and I may eventually get around to them. And who knows? I may take a look at Iyer's other books too. Recommended for Graham Greene enthusiasts. ( )
  TimBazzett | Apr 1, 2013 |
Pico Iyer's writing soothes me. The fluidity, the depth of his sentences are among the best constructed I've ever encountered. And, of course, I share his passion for travel, for depth, for seeking answers to the larger questions.

But in this exploration of the profound effect Graham Greene has had on him--he is nominally The Man, after all but as Iyer's wife points out, it could also be his father--I found, subconsciously expectedly while consciously unexpectedly, most moving his passages about the fathers we all seek:

"A son may choose never to listen to a father, but a father...is always bound to a son, and real disinheritance is hard." ( )
  JerryColonna | Dec 22, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030726761X, Hardcover)

We all carry people inside our heads—actors, leaders, writers, people out of history or fiction, met or unmet, who sometimes seem closer to us than people we know.
In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer sets out to unravel the mysterious closeness he has always felt with the English writer Graham Greene; he examines Greene’s obsessions, his elusiveness, his penchant for mystery. Iyer follows Greene’s trail from his first novel, The Man Within, to such later classics as The Quiet American and begins to unpack all he has in common with Greene: an English public school education, a lifelong restlessness and refusal to make a home anywhere, a fascination with the complications of faith. The deeper Iyer plunges into their haunted kinship, the more he begins to wonder whether the man within his head is not Greene but his own father, or perhaps some more shadowy aspect of himself.
Drawing upon experiences across the globe, from Cuba to Bhutan, and moving, as Greene would, from Sri Lanka in war to intimate moments of introspection; trying to make sense of his own past, commuting between the cloisters of a fifteenth-century boarding school and California in the 1960s, one of our most resourceful explorers of crossing cultures gives us his most personal and revelatory book.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:17 -0400)

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Recounts the author's life-long obsession with Graham Greene's writings on the experiences of being an outsider, which informed both the author's travels and his private explorations of his relationship with his elusive father.

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