Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier...Editor.

I've recently become obsessed with the novels of John le Carre.

When I was a young teen I read The Russia House, spurred by an inherited affinity for Helen MacInnes (The Salzburg Connection, my dad reminded me on the phone tonight, was her best book; I had forgotten it entirely till he said anything but I find I still remember its antiheroine's name: Elissa Lang. How glamorous!) and a six-month devotion to Michelle Pfeiffer. Come to think of it, both the book and the film version of The Russia House passed pretty much entirely over my head, such is le Carre's complexity.

More recently, after my sister and I saw and loved The Constant Gardener at a Brooklyn cinema, I read that book (subsequently lent to Dorok, whose Howards End I'm holding ransom until he returns the le Carre and Lolita I lent him ages ago)* in a similarly incoherent gulp.

(*Just kidding / padding out this entry to make it more amusing. Chris brought to our household an identical copy of Lolita, so you can keep it. I think I still have one of your Philip Roths, anyway, which considering it and the Forster are trade papers and the Lolita and Gardener were mere mass market pbs means I owe YOU--oops.)

But the other week I devoured A Perfect Spy, which was not only an excellent spy novel but one of the best novels period I've ever read. Subsequently I googlearned that it's his most autobiographical book, making me rather wish (I'm feeling British) (Cold War British, if you want to get specific) I had left it until later as a prize.

Today on my lunch hour I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the first in the Smiley trilogy, which I'd been reading on the subway on my way to and from work; 50 pages from the end I dashed headlong through the morning until noon when I shut my office door and turned off my monitor in order to finish it. It wasn't until my empty subway ride home that I realized dismayed that the neighborhood used bookstore I rely on for my le Carre fix closed--yesterday!--for a month while its proprietor vacations. Probably to Greece, where he'll meet up with Czecho agents and dodge intricate internal double agent betrayals. Just kidding. But such is my current mindset.

I read earlier this week that le Carre sold his newest book (A Man of Worth, I think it'll be called) for Fall 2008 publication, and I couldn't be more excited. Is March through September enough time to work my way through his entire oeuvre? Doubtful, considering le Carre is one of the only writers I don't (this is a confession) jet through; skim over a le Carre paragraph and you'll find yourself at the end of the book not knowing what just happened. (Who are the other writers I read with care? Hmm. Nabokov is another, purely for the beauty of his writing; how could you miss "the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth"? ... but I'll have to think about that one.)

But in any case you may be certain my eyes are peeled for the next teen spy story, primed this time, ten years later, not by MacInnes and Pfeiffer but by Bristow, Bond, and, of course, le Carre.


The Other Lion said...

i tagged you.

d. said...

I wondered where my The Plot Against America went. Did you read it?

And I still haven't read Lolita, which is obnoxious only because it's the threshold I feel I should pass before picking up Reading Lolita in Tehran.

liz said...

okay I'm all caught up. I need a new post please.