Synopses & Reviews
Through a series of improbable coincidences in the early 1970s Harry Mathews then living in France was commonly reputed to be a CIA agent. Even his closest friends had their suspicions which were only reinforced each time he tried to deny such a connection. With growing frustration at his inability to make anyone believe him Mathews decided to act the part. My Life in CIA documents Mathews's experiences as a would-be spy during 1973 where amid charged world events the coup in Chile Watergate the ending of the Vietnam War he found himself engaged in a game that took sinister twists as various foreign agencies were interested in him for their own dubious purposes. Harry Mathews has turned these strange events into a spellbinding thriller that relentlessly blurs the line between fact and fiction.
"Leading a life of letters and leisure in Paris in the late 1960s and early '70s, Mathews (Cigarettes; The Human Country) wanted to 'play a part in the grand conspiracy of poetic subversion,' but people mistook him for 'an ordinary, paid conspirator.' Idle rumors grew a life of their own for this American ex-pat writer: people thought he was CIA, and when his denials fell on deaf ears, he decided to embrace the role, a story he embellishes in this staccato autobiographical novel peppered with literary, artistic and political references. Playing spy 'seemed more promising than moping at home in front of my mirror wondering how fast I was losing my hair,' the 41-year-old Mathews muses as he faces middle age in 1973. So he invents a fake travel agency for cover and bones up on the language of the spy trade with the help of his friend Patrick, who does corporate intelligence work. Mathews's shaggy dog tale turns risky when agents begin approaching him for real intelligence, 'Patrick' turns out to be a false identity and Mathews goes on the run. Real people his former and current wife, his agent share page space with possibly fictitious events a lecture Mathews gives to dyslexic travelers with departure anxiety in this lively bit of novelistic truth telling and biographical embellishment. Agent, Maxine Groffsky. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[N]o matter the rough edges of its spy-novel mechanics, My Life in CIA is extremely appealing....[A] book that's easy to like, an unusual pleasure: an American expatriate spy fantasy, and a very entertaining novel." The New York Times Book Review
"Unlikely...are the twists and turns his fictional memoir takes, punctuated by little cloak-and-dagger episodes and even a spectacular moment of wetwork among the wine-and-cheese picnics al fresco....[A] lot of fun." Kirkus Reviews
"Its outrageous that an educated man and a gifted writer like Mr. Mathews could make such a public confession of such shameful activities." Q. Kuhlmann author of The Eye of Anguish: Subversive Activity in the German Democratic Republic
"This is an honest account by someone (he seems at the time to have been a bit of a neer-do-well) who tried to play spy without knowing what the word meant and landed himself in boiling-hot water. The book which is as exciting as any novel proves a useful moral: leave this business to the pros." Colonel Raymond Russell (ret.) Counterintelligence Corps U.S. Army
About the Author
Harry Mathews was born and raised on New York's Upper East Side but left America for France in 1952 shortly after graduating from Harvard. He has written over a dozen books including the novels Cigarettes The Journalist and Tlooth along with collected stories The Human Country and essays The Case of the Persevering Maltese. Mathews is also the only American member of the Oulipo the Workshop for Potential Literature France's longest and most active literary movement. Currently he divides his time between Paris Key West and New York.