Tag Archives: John Le Carre

Wonk summer reading recommendations that aren’t all that wonky

One might suspect that a summer-reading list from something called Foreign Policy would be full of turgid academic announcements of the urgent need for a more forward-looking approach to Moldavia, but then one would come to one’s senses and realize that, no, I was thinking of Foreign Affairs. Anyway, I highly recommend this FP summer books list, which skips back and forth from policy to foreign, and fiction to non-. Its most praiseworthy attribute: The recommenders appear to be trying to show off, so when they recommend you read Nabokov, they recommend Laughter in the Dark, which, despite being a Russian literature freak, I had never heard of, much less read.  Similarly obscure plugs pop up for Ian McEwan (Black Dogs) and John le Carré (The Secret Pilgrim). And overall, the recommendations, which come from Foreign Policy contributors, which means from very well-read people, are delightfully eclectic. You either have heard of the books (and think yes, I’d intended to get to that) or you have not (and think, sounds interesting, but where in the hell did he ever run into that?).

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The one living literary genius

I suppose I can argue with my own headline and admit that Cormac McCarthy is also a genius, or at least the writer of one book of true genius, No Country for Old Men. At the same time, I am absolutely convinced that John Le Carré will be seen, after I’ve been rotting in the ground for decades, as the leading literary light of the late 20th and early 21st century. To be sure, there are some who argue — even now, despite decades of evidence to the contrary — that he’s a genre writer, but I suspect most of those who continue to put forward such inanity are unserious minds or people who have actually never read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the reissue of which gets a nice little write-up here by the L.A. Times. But those critics will also be dead in the ground for centuries as George Smiley lives on and on, cuckolded and protecting the West for eternity.

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