Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Agent Running in the Field: John LeCarre's latest novel rivots attention to world politics

With Britain in a near state of political crisis over Brexit, Le Carre weaves together a suspenseful tale that involves the the clandestine swapping of classified information to our adversaries the Russians.

Edward Stanley Shannon, a lowly British 'clerk' with security clearance has been photocopying highly classified  documents  from Topsecret Jericho. This is a project involving clandestine negotiations between the US and Great Britain to to increase and tighten economize trade between the two countries in the wake of Britain's exit from and then being locked out of  European trade partners.

Nat is a 45 year old 'retired spook' that has been called back to head an 'office'-- a spy operation that seems of little importance.

He is also reigning Club Champion of a Badminton club in Battersea. Here, he meets a shy, self effacing 25 year old Ed who as an unranked player and hence unknown player challenges Nat to a match. Nat rather surprising accepts and beats Ed handily
   And so begins a casual relationship centered around a sometime weekly match  and a few beers afterwards. 

  They each have a vague idea what the other does for a living.

I suggest you read the novel to fill in the details (a hint: like Peter Guilliam in a Le Carre's previous novel, Legacy of  Spies who is implicated in the shooting of Alex Leamas and his girl friend  Liz Gold at the Berlin Wall, Nat must answer for treason in aiding and abetting a Soviet Spy.
Enjoy, Le Carre at his best.


Monday, December 2, 2019

Harold Bloom: A Bronx Tale and Yale Legend (July 11,1930- October 14, 2019): with Fangs...

It's a beautiful rather balmy afternoon here at the Yale Bowl and as I am watching the Bulldogs quarterback Kurt Rawlings  completing a career high 390 passing yards and his team running past the somnolent Lions---and I am thinking what is Harold Bloom that towering admirer, creator, critic and sometime  curmudgeon worshiper at the canonical temple of western humanities doing right now? 

You see, I have never met Dr. Bloom, appointed Yale Sterling Professor of the Humanities in 1983, have never read any of his 40 books of literary criticism.

So, why was he on my mind?

 Some 3 weeks earlier while perusing the weekend October 12-13, Review Section of the Wall Street Journal, I chanced on an  article entitled A Cat that Walks by Himself  which informed me that "As a student of Western literature, (emphasis mine), Mr Bloom is drawn to what Longinus called the sublime--to works of power, strangeness and intensity that leave one spiritually shaken and stirred. Such works, as the critic once said (nodding to Wordsworth), are 'capable of giving you a sense of  something ever more about to be.' "

I know he,too, was born in the Bronx. And at an early age he began reading and memorizing books at the Melrose branch of New York City library about 2.5 miles from my birthplace in the East Tremont section.

I knew this man adored Shakespeare as a divinity (indeed, his spirit dwelt on mountaintops) and  had a voracious appetite for only  those western writers deserving to reside in his self created pantheon .

What I did not know at the Yale Bowl is that Prof. Bloom had passed away about 3 weeks earlier.

When skimming articles in the Arts and Letters section of the  Jewish Week of October 25, my eyes caught a JTA article entitled Harold Bloom Dreamed in Yiddish Until his Death.

Indeed, Yiddish was his mother tongue and the very first Shakespeare play Bloom heard was in Yiddish where the magnificent Maurice Schwartz played Shylock.

Alas, at the Yale Bowl that balmy day with the Yale Bull Dog showing its might and supremacy, Professor Bloom may have well bellowed these memorable lines from The Merchant of Venice : "Thou callest me a dog before thou hast cause. But since I am a dog, beware my fangs." 

(Perhaps, the often curmudgeonly Bloom might have had more than his beloved team in mind.....)