by Tom Whalen
Publication Date: 06/07/2011
Russell H. Greenan's "It Happened in Boston?" is one of the most radical narratives to appear in the late 1960s ("this is a book that encompasses everything" as David L. Ulin noted in "Bookforum"). Yet due in large part to the difficulty of classifying Greenan's fiction, many readers are unaware of his other novels. In "The Birth of Death and Other Comedies: The Novels of Russell H. Greenan," Tom Whalen, drawing widely from the American literary tradition, locates Greenan's lineage in the work of Hawthorne and Poe "where allegory and dream mingle with and illuminate realism," as well as in the fiction of Twain, West, Hammett, Cain, and Thompson. Examining Greenan's characteristic themes and strategies, Whalen provides perceptive readings of the dark comedies of this criminally neglected American master, and in a coda reflects on Greenan's career and the reception of his work.