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What we're reading, what we're liking.

Published March 3, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

What we're reading, what we're liking

The Quiet American by Graham Greene
A particularly impossible love triangle is at the center of Graham Greene's novel. Alden Pyle, the irritatingly young, romantic American (yes, the "quiet american"), and Fowler, the older, cynical British reporter, both love Phuong, an angelic Vietnamese woman. She's Fowler's lover first. What's laid out with graceful subtlety in Greene's novel is more obvious in the film version (as powerful as it is): Pyle wants to save Phuong, just as the United States claimed it wanted to save Vietnam, and the wiser Brit somewhat helplessly witnesses the inevitable bloodshed borne out of American naiveté and arrogance. And again, Greene proves himself a master at conveying jealousy (see "The End of the Affair" for more of that) and desire. Imagine this painful scene, and those thereafter: Pyle doesn't even steal Phuong away from Fowler. He simply asks for her -- graciously, diplomatically -- but as if she's already his.

-- Suzy Hansen

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