Friday, January 20, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Bunyip

OFF to the flicks later tonight and very interested in hearing what readers think may think of the film the Professor and his Rufous Bird have been counting the days to see. The novel is mid-period LeCarre, when he was at the height of his powers, but it will not be the film of his best book. That would A Perfect Spy, and it has yet to be put on film. If you haven't read Perfect Spy, you should -- but prepare yourself by first taking up a copy of  Anthony Cave Brown's engrossing Treason In The Blood, which will set up LeCarre's fiction with a factual of account of Kim Philby and his father, the no less tangled and treacherous H. St John Philby.

And while we're handing out library chits, William Boyd's thoughts on Philby and other matters are also worth a glance. The hope at the Billabong is that Hollywood has done a better job with Tinker than with Boyd's A Good Man In Africa. Extraordinarily funny book, absolute stinker of a movie.

And if you have the time, C-Span's hourlong chat with Brown is well worth watching.


  1. This is a quote from a review of The American: "Listless Euro-ennui pastiche." I have a sneaking suspicion TTSS will be a similar dreary mess.

  2. I would love HBO to give the full treatment to Len Deighton's trilogy trilogy: Game, Set and Match; Hook, Line and Sinker; and Faith, Hope and Charity.

  3. Prof, treat yourself to the Beeb's rather brilliant rendition of A Perfect Spy. It's better than any film would be. No shipping charges from the UK either.

    1. Absolutely, it's a ripper. You can't do justice to a LeCarre plot in a movie length format.


  5. BTW, to celebrate my first week's pay as a graduate long ago, I popped into the local bookshop near work and actually bought Kim Philby's autobiography (in Toorak of all places!). Of course I wasn't thinking about the man's morality when I bought it, and would now. Truly, Abbie Hoffman's advice would never be more apt.

    The sad truth about these Super-Traitors is their utter banality. Philby in print was the most tedious, self-serving bore imaginable, and you can be assured he was no better in real life.

    Once criticism I've heard of both the TTSS movie and TV series is that the traitor's motivation to start is never quite convincingly laid out. There's the rub - there is no motivation that would convince consumers of fable looking for nobility, villainy, or even greed.

    Why did they do it? Because they were runts of men in their hearts. Betraying better men and keeping a smug secret made them feel good about themselves.

  6. Fascinating analysis of Philby's motivations; how refreshing to see Philby treated by Boyd -in the Guardian - with the contempt he deserves, yet how delicious to see the subeditor's take on it ("Kim Philby was widely respected . . "); I dearly love a laugh, and it would be dreary if we could no longer laugh at the Guardian, or the Age for that matter.

    And yet Boyd's analysis is speculative, unprovable, and unconvincing. Why did Philby do what he did? I don't know, but I haven't ever seen a more convincing explanation for evil than that which appears in Micah. Mankind "hates the good and loves the evil". No doubt there are deeper, more scientific reasons. How funny that we haven't yet unearthed them.

  7. I believe the motive of all the traitors was hatred of America - Philby's "certain temporary phenomena that prevented England from being herself".
    Le Carre himself is of that bent.

  8. A very strange take on Philby (and his father) in Tim Powers's novel, 'Declare.'