In most portrayals of Cold War espionage, both Communist and capitalist spies appear wedded to their respective ideologies. Yet real spies, as the FBI knows, often have more nebulous motivations. In the Times Book Review, Ben MacIntyre reads the latest by Ha Jin, which centers on a Chinese spy embedded in suburban Virginia.
In his recent collection of poetry, The Americans, David Roderick examines the spaces in which Americans make their homes, calling on his readers to view them in the context of American history. At The Rumpus, Brian Simoneau reviews the collection, which he says illuminates some of his own odd feelings about moving from Boston to Connecticut.
“It’s interesting to me now how many lawyers I’ve published. There’s something about the retelling, the assembling of a logical arc, about planting the clues and so forth that is believable and compelling. There’s a similarity in the way your mind needs to work, too. The logical progression of the narrative, the planting clues, the revelations and also just imbuing it with the emotional truth of the moment. That’s what a fiction writer has to do.” An interview with editor and literary gatekeeper Lee Boudreaux.
“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.