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Thread: VSalon Infinite Book Listicle - What Are You Reading Now

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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Agree--I read a bunch of Mavis Gallant's work during the pandemic. "From the Fifteenth District" is a story I recommend to friends who express an interest in her writing.

    Just finished Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys" and I'm now reading "On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes" by Alexandra Horowitz. Thumbs up for both. Chabon sure has a way of pulling the reader along until arriving at a milepost of verbiage that is both ridiculous and appropriate.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    LeCarré took as his literary mission to deglamorize intelligence work as ignominious work done by emotionally dented immoral grifters and thieves employed by those who could harness the desperation of others in order to achieve something similar to the status quo and label it as heroic for dishonorable reasons. When he starts to mellow later in life, the vinegar goes out of his stories, and while well-written, they are not as interesting, at least to me.
    Your summary of Le Carré's attitude was in the back of my mind when I read Tinker Tailor and Smiley's People. I'll preface the following by saying that I've always been quite subpar on picking up cues just below the surface and usually had to rely on express statements to get these cues. As such, while I could detect here or there some of the de-glamorizing effort, they felt non-existent to subtle.

    This wasn't the case for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The nature of the narrative itself makes it very clear from almost the beginning at what a cynical and immoral (and not just merely amoral) the whole profession was. And though it was a relatively short read at no more than 250 pages, there is almost no filler, and many details become important later-on, so much so that I definitely need to re-read it (and perhaps jot things down). It was such a worthwhile read, and I think had I read this first, Le Carré's attitudes in his later works would have appeared as more than just under-the-surface hints.

    Also on somewhat of a tangent, in his intro to Spy Who Came in from the Cold written in the 2010's, Le Carré expressly mentioned the Gehlen Organization, founded by Reinhard Gehlen (former head of German military intelligence focused on the Eastern Front) and full of former SD members, wherein a good number of the latter have been turned by the Soviets. This organization effectively morphed into the West German BND, whose first director was none other than Gehlen himself. In light of this, a lot of the context to Deutschland 83/86/89 and the leaky BND begins to make a bit more sense. A Small Town in Germany is probably next on my list.

    It probably comes as no surprise that if we were to get the opportunity to travel in 2024, we would head to Berlin.

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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford
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    Quote Originally Posted by echappist View Post
    Your summary of Le Carré's attitude was in the back of my mind when I read Tinker Tailor and Smiley's People. I'll preface the following by saying that I've always been quite subpar on picking up cues just below the surface and usually had to rely on express statements to get these cues. As such, while I could detect here or there some of the de-glamorizing effort, they felt non-existent to subtle.

    This wasn't the case for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The nature of the narrative itself makes it very clear from almost the beginning at what a cynical and immoral (and not just merely amoral) the whole profession was. And though it was a relatively short read at no more than 250 pages, there is almost no filler, and many details become important later-on, so much so that I definitely need to re-read it (and perhaps jot things down). It was such a worthwhile read, and I think had I read this first, Le Carré's attitudes in his later works would have appeared as more than just under-the-surface hints.

    Also on somewhat of a tangent, in his intro to Spy Who Came in from the Cold written in the 2010's, Le Carré expressly mentioned the Gehlen Organization, founded by Reinhard Gehlen (former head of German military intelligence focused on the Eastern Front) and full of former SD members, wherein a good number of the latter have been turned by the Soviets. This organization effectively morphed into the West German BND, whose first director was none other than Gehlen himself. In light of this, a lot of the context to Deutschland 83/86/89 and the leaky BND begins to make a bit more sense. A Small Town in Germany is probably next on my list.

    It probably comes as no surprise that if we were to get the opportunity to travel in 2024, we would head to Berlin.
    That sounds right. I think when Le Carre gets to the "Karla Trilogy" - Tinker Tailor, Honorable Schoolboy and Smiley's People - he's worked out some of his demons after his cover was blown by Kim Philby's defection. The narrator in that trilogy is more sure of himself and much more refined and cleverer. And completely unreliable. The three books read on surface as successes - they find the spy, they get the Chinese defector, they capture Karla. But these are all closing the barn door after the cows are gone stories and lots of people die or get killed or have their careers ruined or they are psychologically destroyed through blackmail manipulation etc. Meanwhile Karla eats everyone's lunch, especially Smiley's (even takes a fancy lighter that was a gift to Smiley from his wife and orders his mole to seduce Smiley's wife) and runs rings around British intelligence (who have to kill their own agents in Schoolboy and still lose the Chinese defector to the CIA) to the point where by the end Smiley gets Karla but Karla has taken everything Smiley ever had. Smiley is hollowed out. Karla is retired having basically won every battle except one.

    But The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is intense, direct, bare-fisted. It does make one wonder what Berlin was like during the heyday of the Cold War. If you were in the service then, not very nice I suspect. But addicting to a certain type of person.

    Has anyone watched The Pigeon Tunnel? Any time I've heard Errol Morris talk, he's made my skin crawl, so I've avoided it up to now.
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Reading Le Carre almost causes me to wish I'd experienced Berlin before the wall came down. I am very glad to trade my lack of experience for the fall of the wall, however, and will happily visit Berlin anyway.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Reading LeCarre makes me aware that there were people in college with me who probably went into that life.

    And makes me wonder who George Santos really is. He's almost straight out of LeCarre central casting. Petty thief, liar, swindler, well oiled. Who held the other end of his string?

    Maybe this guy, eh? Santos gets tossed and this guy gets arrested and charged. Clean up on aisle 7?
    Last edited by j44ke; 12-05-2023 at 04:28 PM.
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    I just started a master's program in Military History. So everything is about war, strategery, and Clausewitz.
    Retired Sailor, Marine dad, semi-professional cyclist, fly fisherman, and Indian School STEM teacher.
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post

    And makes me wonder who George Santos really is. He's almost straight out of LeCarre central casting. Petty thief, liar, swindler, well oiled. Who held the other end of his string?
    Santos get tossed for being a fabulous and a liar, and the Republicans seemingly want another fabulous and liar, with a side serving of fraud and sexual assault to be President? These people are on drugs and most of them wouldn't know their LeCarre from their Cornwell.

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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, Landmark edition
    with GMT Great Battles Of Alexander deluxe reissue as interpretive aid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BBB View Post
    Santos get tossed for being a fabulous and a liar, and the Republicans seemingly want another fabulous and liar, with a side serving of fraud and sexual assault to be President? These people are on drugs and most of them wouldn't know their LeCarre from their Cornwell.
    I don’t think Santos is a Republican. Or a product of the Republicans. I don’t think Republicans even view Santos as a liar. I think they view him as an alien. He didn’t come from their world. He’s like that kid who landed his plane at the Kremlin. I’m sure he just followed the grift and ended up in Congress, but at the same time, he seems like he should have someone he meets at a NJ diner irregularly and hollow trees at rest stops he marks with chalk on the BW Parkway. In LeCarre’s work, there isn’t much separation between the grift and intelligence work. That's what I'm talking about. Not that Republicans are LeCarre readers.
    Last edited by j44ke; 12-06-2023 at 05:11 AM.
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll.

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    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    [snip]. In LeCarre’s work, there isn’t much separation between the grift and intelligence work. That's what I'm talking about. Not that Republicans are LeCarre readers.
    Santos is a political take on the "The Producers", key insight of The Producers, nobody ever audits a failed broadway show,
    Santos tried the politcal version, no one ever audits a failed campaign, humor ensues when the show works or the candidate
    gets elected.

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    You guys have me interested in LeCarre's work. What order do you recommend reading them in - let's start with three. Thanks!
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    Changing lanes, the wife and I were watching a show on Britbox that mentioned Finnagens Wake. Anyone tried to read it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mnoble485 View Post
    Changing lanes, the wife and I were watching a show on Britbox that mentioned Finnagens Wake. Anyone tried to read it?

    Mike
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldamelio View Post
    You guys have me interested in LeCarre's work. What order do you recommend reading them in - let's start with three. Thanks!
    I'd read the Karla Trilogy to start. I don't think LeCarre conceived them as a trilogy, but instead they evolved into a trilogy as he (and his readers) took an interest in George Smiley. They are:

    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    The Honorable Schoolboy

    Smiley's People
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    Thanks. Off to the library!
    Lou D'Amelio
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    I've been enjoying "Slow Horses", both the show and the first book by Mick Herron. Incompetent-ish British spies, odious boss played by Gary Oldman - like an updated, funnier LeCarré.
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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    I don’t think Santos is a Republican. Or a product of the Republicans. I don’t think Republicans even view Santos as a liar. I think they view him as an alien. He didn’t come from their world. He’s like that kid who landed his plane at the Kremlin. I’m sure he just followed the grift and ended up in Congress, but at the same time, he seems like he should have someone he meets at a NJ diner irregularly and hollow trees at rest stops he marks with chalk on the BW Parkway. In LeCarre’s work, there isn’t much separation between the grift and intelligence work. That's what I'm talking about. Not that Republicans are LeCarre readers.
    I'm just completely baffled by it all (Republicans, Trump et al). But, that's a political discussion and not a book discussion!

    In any event, I have read The Wager A tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder (apparently Scorsese wants to make a movie out of it - de-aged DeNiro on the high seas!) and The Ship Beneath The Ice The Discovery of Shackleton's Endurance. After these two I went to the airport thriller aisle and polished off two Jack Reacher books.

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    Default Re: Do we have a book reading thread here?

    Quote Originally Posted by hampco View Post
    I've been enjoying "Slow Horses", both the show and the first book by Mick Herron. Incompetent-ish British spies, odious boss played by Gary Oldman - like an updated, funnier LeCarré.
    Funny you should mention Slough Horses/ Slow Horses.



    Having stayed at a hotel a literal stone's throw away from that intersection, the locale was immediately recognizable to me. A shame that I had no idea about the book and the show when we visited last year (I found out about the show only two weeks ago, via an article from The Guardian). And for some (not so) strange reason, the stills from the show looked as gritty as the scenes of A Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which was filmed in the 60's and starred Richard Burton. Richard Burton's character, of course, went on to lecture John Hurt's character about 2 + 2 = 5 in 1984, only for John Hurt to play the part of Control in the film adaptation of Tinker Tailor, which also starred Gary Oldman.

    Also, on a tangent, that intersection is also very close to Barbican Center, which is presently showing the well-received stage production of My Neighbor Totoro. That was also playing when we were in London, and I was completely oblivious to it as well. Alas why I'm soliciting advice before our next trip.

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