May 23, 2017

The Write Stuff and Dark Arts

Interesting article in the New York Times by movie director William Friedkin who was married to Jeanne Moreau when he first began retracing Proust's early steps. I intend on secluding myself for a couple months and reading all 7 installments of In Search of Lost Time. I've tried doing the audiobooks but it's far too subtle and complex to pull you in while driving.
*this pic was poached from Slim Paley who identifies the model (or is it designer?) as Karlie Kloss

Long absence so much to catch up on. First off a few books. John le Carre's wonderful memoir The Pigeon Tunnel is narrated (audiobook) by the master himself. Like P. G. Wodehouse and Patrick O'Brian, le Carre' elevated his genre into the very highest rank of Literature.  I made the mistake of reading his magnum opus A Perfect Spy and beginning To Kill a Mockingbird the next day. Atticus Finch & Scout never had a chance so soon after inhabiting the fascinating interior life of Magnus Pym.

85 year old John le Carre' at his home in Penzance, Cornwall. GSL has been summoned to St. Ives, Cornwall this August (but might be delayed til next summer) so may have to arrange for a meet. He's still going strong and has a new novel out in September: A Legacy of Spies

Read Norman Mailer's The Spooky Art: Some Thoughts on Writing and came away slightly less impressed with Mailer although it was an interesting read. Mailer's magnum opus was Harlot's Ghost about the CIA that unfortunately didn't find the wide audience and critical acclaim it deserved.

Interesting to compare le Carre' and Mailer as both had massive international fame at an early age.  Mailer set out to become a prominent Public Intellectual while le Carre' kept a low profile and eschewed literary awards which Mailer craved.  It's become something of a joke that le Carre' freely acknowledges in the Pigeon Tunnel Introduction that he always resolutely proclaims, during an interview how he's a private man and this is the absolute last interview he'll ever do and blasts writers that always seek to dazzle while dining at High Table (was he thinking of Mailer?) when they should be secluded in their writing cabin.  A few of us noticed how le Carre' began these tantrums before doing about 5 extensive telly interviews, offering his biographer (the brilliant Adam Sisman) 40+ hours of recorded interviews, and then of course the memoir....and let's not forget that A Perfect Spy was hugely autobiographical. While hearing le Carre's reluctant admission, I couldn't help but think of a very talented writer I know who has shared more personal details than I know about my own mother or virtually anybody else while simultaneously proclaiming how private she is and then has reminded me how private she is...across 4 different social media platforms.  Like my talented friend, le Carre isn't really private but goes thru periods of craving solitude and has a few things he'd rather keep hidden or offer a more interesting account as biographer Sisman noted of a few Pigeon Tunnel anecdotes that had suddenly acquired a fresh polish....always a telltale sign of a first-rate creative mind.

Any thoughts on John le Carre', Norman Mailer, Proust, or any recent reads?


  1. I love le Carre and I like his interviews he has done in the past bc he is so no nonsense British. I wasn't going to but I might actually get his latest book.

    1. Naomi,
      I of course know exactly what you mean but seeing his no-nonsense Brit persona always utter such nonsense (in retrospect) over his aversion to interviews, etc gets put in proper context once you learn what a charmismatic conman his father Ronnie was. I have heard some fabulous Royal Shakes Co trained narrators on audiobooks and le Carre is every bit as good. His Alec Guinness sounds exactly like Alec Guinness. There is a wonderful anecdote he shares with his good friend at Oxford named Reggie Bosanquet who was a famous British broadcaster that likely predates your arrival...ol' Reggie liked to whet his whistle and was often referred to as "Reggie Beaujolais" or "Reggie Boozalot" as apparently he occasionally went on air quite well lubricated.

  2. I'm so glad to see you, Sweetpea! From where and when you've been incognito or in disguise or in service or en plein air with a Margarita to hand---it's good to have you back. You just never KNOW about you, you know.

    Le Carre and I have a great and wonderful companionship, with his intricate webs and intrigues and grim smoky conferrals, and I'm definitely one of Smiley's People.

    Mailer---he's smoky, all right---Lou Grant in a hoodie. In fact, all the pages seem to waft a scent of Camels languishing in one of those heavy old goldy-glass ashtrays, and a dry view of life in whatever decade. Just CAN'T with Mailer---even belaboring the smoke, it's like being trapped in an elevator with four people of varying political and religious views and cigarette brands, all mumbling their rhetoric as the car groans to a halt. One of the THREE books I've ever tossed in the garbage was Ancient Evenings (the other two, Bellow's Something Happened---nothing did---and Koontz's Winter Moon, were left to grind away in the Monday truck, but after heaving that gaudy five-pounder twelve feet for a three-pointer across the kitchen, I retrieved it, brushed off the coffee grounds, and dropped it into the "donations" flip at the Library).

    And Proust---he's a Sunday-afternoon-in-a-meadow read to me, like Miss Emily, somehow, for he was a staple in our Liberal Arts handbags in college, and I doubt I've seen him since, except in mentions on Baking Shows.

    I've been holding off watching Oldman's TTSS on NETFLIX til I can rustle up the Guinness version to binge the double-feature some cloudy afternoon. Care to Join me? I make a mean Madeleine.


    1. Dearest Rachel,
      I think "Lou Grant in a Hoodie" (priceless!!!) would have much to learn and admire in you. Definitely set aside time for Smiley's father and do the audiobook as his rich versatile voice draws you in that much closer.

  3. Glad you are back. I hope all is well with you! That is indeed Karlie Kloss. I remember that editorial in Vogue, Karlie looked so beautiful in every photo. I just re-read 1984 and am glad I did. It is indeed relevant for our times but not for the obvious reasons I hear bandied about in the press. Hmmm, have the Dems become Big Brother with the Party Members (I hate to use the terms Proles but, I mean...) carrying Telescreens at all times, filming everything, while everyone takes down every Confederate memorial around the country as they try to rewrite history and talk in Newspeak? I tell ya, this new world is so strange to me.

    I always found Mailer to be so insufferable, I refuse to read him. I will wait for your review of Proust, I never read him either. xx

    1. Hi Jill,
      Yes these times with the Charmed Life Progressives (CLPs)so eager to squeeze offense out of every imagined slight and then how they viciously attack Melania, Ivanka, Barron...there are no honest press brokers left each has become a propaganda arm of a political agenda. I monitor the twitter feeds of many of the Washington Press Corps as they echo chamber that hour's Big Story piggy-backing on memes long before facts lift the fog and by then they are lustily hate-memeing another Outrage of the Day before it too collapses around them.
      Best thing too happen was appointing former FBI Boss Mueller Special Counsel as everybody's now on record expressing much deserved respect for his high integrity. The NYT/WaPo hacks have so much invested in a Trump takedown, I can't wait to see their reactions when they see where the facts lead. I believe the unmasking surveilled Americans and leaking classified info to damage Trump may fill up a Paddy-Wagon of co-conspirators. Boy Wonder Ben Rhodes, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, et al may be having a few sleepless nights.

    2. Mailer is indeed insufferable but I have a very high threshold for Big Personalities with Big Intellect...but not when he stabs his wife.