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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
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    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413


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The Defection of A.J. Lewinter by Robert Littell
The Defection of A.J. Lewinter

jab2060, July 29, 2010

"Defection" is a quick and breezy read, but comparisons (oft made) to LeCarre are seriously inapt. The characters, with few exceptions, are stick figures, and their behavior, in key instances, strikes this reader as contrived. The relationship between the young model, Sarah, and her lover, Diamond (the American wannabe spy whose machinations drive the 2nd half of the book) is particularly ludicrous. The dissolution of several important relationships, near the end of the novel - painful severances meant to resonate with LeCarre-esque 'rueful pathos' - struck me as tonal 'clunks', Littell's unearned grasping for emotional impact in what, frankly, best functions as a social satire That said, read as a social satire (of hyper-masculinity, even more than Cold War paranoia), it's just larky enough to hold one's interest. Littell is quite adept at limning the absurdities of bureaucratic oneupsmanship, and throughout there is a deft and gentle send up of the male 'mid-life crisis', a crisis that seems to be animating almost every central (male) character is this novel. What's odd, however, is that we are set-up to expect a considerably more intricate and fiendish 'game of chess', between multiple competitors, than is ultimately delivered: not to mix metaphors, but this reader was left feeling about three hairpin twists and turns short of a legitimate roller coaster ride --- while I wouldn't say that this was an unenjoyable read, I suspect that many readers might feel, as I did (upon completing this short novel) that there was another 100 odd pages still to be written to legitimize this book as a 'thriller'.
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