January 05, 2004

ABSOLUTE FAILURE

Greenpeace bore Anne Summers defends John le Carre against the neo-con and right-wing cabals that would savage him:

Hell hath no fury like a conservative scorned. Or so it would seem from the savagery with which the neo-con and right-wing cabals have turned on John le Carre and his latest book, Absolute Friends.

Why are they bothering? It's a novel, after all. Can you imagine the left caring enough about Tom Clancy's latest to go to the barricades?

Yeah. Itís not as though the left would ever be distracted by anything so trivial. Like a plastic turkey, for example.

Last January [le Carre] published in The Times in London a no-holds-barred opinion piece entitled "The United States of America has gone mad".

And the flak Le Carre copped then is being repeated now because his latest book, published in early December, takes up these themes with even greater gusto.

"There's a new Grand Design about in case you haven't noticed," he has one of his characters say. "It's called pre-emptive naivety, and it rests on the assumption that everyone in the world would like to live in Dayton, Ohio, under one god, no prizes for guessing whose god that is."

That is plain awful writing. Nobody speaks like that. Nobody even writes like that, outside of paranoid lefty chatrooms. Naturally, Summers loves it:

Le Carre is a compelling story-teller. It has been said his plots have the intricate precision of marquetry. His principal characters are equally complicated, usually imbued more with self-doubt than ideological fervour. He is always a great read but this one has something else, a white-hot anger fuelled by his absolute comprehension of the evil that is being done to humankind in the name of politics, religion and profit.

Why is Summers bothering to tell us this? It's a novel, after all.

Posted by Tim Blair at January 5, 2004 12:43 AM
Comments

I used to love LeCarre's Cold War novels but he's been going downhill since the Berlin Wall fell and George Smiley retired. I barely made it through The Tailor of Panama and haven't read one of his books since. He seems lost without the deadly gamesmanship between East and West that he understood so well and hasn't been able to replace it with something that is relevant to today's world. It's sad to see that he's gone from the brilliant subtleties and ambiguities of George Smiley to a novel that is little more than a soapbox for his leftist, anti-American, anti-war beliefs.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at January 5, 2004 at 01:20 AM

The Left are still finding ways to play with the plastic turkey - buzzflash.com Monday, January 5, 2004 'Blair Pops Up In Iraq. No Report On Whether or Not He Carried Around a Plastic Turkey. 1/4'

Posted by: Softly at January 5, 2004 at 01:22 AM


The idea that even many Americans would want to live in Dayton is perposterous. I'm sure Dayton is a fine town, but most Americans are happy to live where they are.

But tell Parisians that they are about to lose their area code because of expanding cell phones and the like and the government forces the telephone company to change the rest of the country's phones to 9 or 10 digit dialing, so the Parisians can stick with what they've got.

Now, please, tell me who is provincial?

Posted by: Andrew at January 5, 2004 at 01:52 AM

Funny that he should mention Dayton of all places. I expect at least some of the Serbs and Croats who were brought there from the middle of the Civil War did, in fact, see some things they liked about Dayton, like the fact that everybody was living a highly prosperous and contented life without being shot at. But I understand that that's the kind of thing a European sneers at, that's why none of them ever try to move here. After all, what would you expect the fat stupid Americans who live in such a place to be capable of intellectually, inventing the airplane or something?

Posted by: Mike G at January 5, 2004 at 02:07 AM

Whoops, make that "a civil war," didn't mean to suggest that Serbs and Croats were brought there from Gettysburg.

Posted by: Mike G at January 5, 2004 at 02:07 AM

>it rests on the assumption that everyone in the world would like to live in Dayton, Ohio, under one god, no prizes for guessing whose god that is

Get the feeling this is a code phrase meaning "Those wogs aren't ready for the vote?"

Posted by: John Nowak at January 5, 2004 at 02:15 AM

"...live in Dayton, Ohio, under one god..."

I hate to tell le Clarre but even the people in Dayton don't live under one god. There are Christians (both types), Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, and, I'm willing to bet, Buddhists. Plus there are probably more than a few atheists and agnostics. Gosh, all these different people, worshipping all these different gods (or not worshipping any at all), all pretty much getting along, yeah, that's just horrible.

Posted by: David Crawford at January 5, 2004 at 03:21 AM

Let's see, Le Carre is hot under the collar at people who want to force you to worship their god, and he singles out the US??? So, all these hijackings and suicide bombings and whatnot, that's got nuttin' to do with religion. It's the Americans who are religious fanatics. The Lutheran potluck supper is the most evil of man's instruments. The green bean casserole. The seven-layer salad. And the (shudder) pineapple suspended in lime jello.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at January 5, 2004 at 03:46 AM

Well, Angie, you gotta' admit, the lime jello is pretty cruel.

Posted by: Reid at January 5, 2004 at 04:15 AM

Hey! I live in Dayton, Ohio! Well, close by anyway, and we've got enough smarmy leftazoid freak(peace)niks down at a certain university that will remain nameless except that it's in DAYTON. So thanks, J. leC., but no thanks, you and your friends can absolutely stay where you are. Choice of god is optional.

Posted by: Rebecca at January 5, 2004 at 06:50 AM

LeCarre's books have a quite undeserved reputation for excellence. As a teenager forced to read them at school I found them dull and worthy; as an adult reader they still make me yawn.

Posted by: Sophie at January 5, 2004 at 07:24 AM

"And the flak Le Carre copped then is being repeated now because his latest book, published in early December, takes up these themes with even greater gusto."
So the Op-Ed piece was FICTION TOO?

Posted by: d at January 5, 2004 at 08:44 AM

I, for one, welcome our Dayton, OH overlords.

Posted by: scott h. at January 5, 2004 at 09:06 AM

It would be quite educational to take a poll of people across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and other places in the world to find out exactly how many would prefer to live in Dayton compared to where they live now. I'd bet quite a few.

Posted by: Tom Brosz at January 5, 2004 at 09:06 AM

I hate to tell le Carre but even the people in Dayton don't live under one god. There are Christians (both types), Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, and, I'm willing to bet, Buddhists."

Christians (Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic), Jews and Muslims all worship the same One True God.
Technically speaking, Buddhist don't believe in a god.

Posted by: May Lee at January 5, 2004 at 09:49 AM

I found Le Carre boring as well, along with all the other leftie favourites forced upon us by liberal education bureaucrats who seem to have run the West culturally for about the last forty years. How it spoiled a perfectly good Australian summer to be a teenager forced to read yet another dreadful angst- and class-ridden D. H. Lawrence novel.

Posted by: ilibcc at January 5, 2004 at 10:46 AM

Le Carre is getting a raw deal here. Maybe he believes every line of his book and maybe he doesn't. Who cares. The book is fiction.

What is amazing is that Summers is reaching for a novel to justify her world view. Pathetic.

Posted by: Greg at January 5, 2004 at 11:12 AM

Anne Summers is absolutely no relation to me. I want that ON THE F***ING RECORD!

Posted by: Ken Summers at January 5, 2004 at 11:36 AM

Le Carre writes quite possibly the most boring and uninteresting espionage novels in history.

If you want to read something that's actually enjoyable, try something by Andy McNab or Ian Fleming.

Of course, McNab & Fleming spent their wars fighting real evil, and living through considerable personal danger. LeCarre spent his war sitting behind a desk shuffling paper and writing reports.

Posted by: Wilbur at January 5, 2004 at 11:41 AM

Summers and her editor deserved to be horse-whipped for that lamest of intros: "Hell hath no fury...." that's been round more times than the Indi 500 ambulance.

Posted by: slatts at January 5, 2004 at 11:53 AM

As a professional editor, I find le Carre's writing to be increasingly incomprehensible, rambling and devoid of any form of contact with reality. His dialogue, in particular, is cringeworthy; has he ever tried reading any of his character's speeches aloud?

Posted by: BruceT at January 5, 2004 at 01:17 PM

Some editor!! Substitute "characters'" for "character's" in the above venting!

Posted by: BruceT at January 5, 2004 at 01:19 PM

I really enjoyed le Carre's earlier works. In fact I'll go so far as to say I was a fan. I knew le Carre was a nom de plume and I remember seeing a picture of him on the back of a hardcover of one of his books. In those days the writer was quite reclusive and quite anonymous contented to speak through his art.

Many years later I cannot open a colour supplement without seeing his photo and reading his histrionics in yet another interview. His work is diminishing in quality (or so I understand from reviews - I ceased to be a reader of his works some time ago)and his extraneous rantings get louder and louder. He is getting old and he reminds me a bit of Malcolm Fraser - ratcheting up the rhetoric as less and less people of influence listen. His words seem cheaper and there are increasing amounts of them out there. Like printing money. He is devaluing himself and his words.

Kind of sad. As I said, I was a fan.

Posted by: James Hamilton at January 5, 2004 at 03:18 PM

Having never read anything he produced I can say with full authority that the cover "art" hiding his scibblings is amongst the worst I've seen. No wonder he always ends up in the 5 for $10 bin.

Posted by: Jake D at January 5, 2004 at 03:25 PM

There are plenty of boring old lefty writers still proclaiming their irrelevancies as they go ungentlemanly into the night, raging instead against the dying of the light on the hill, to mix a few metaphors and other bits.

However, thank god for superannuated scribes such as Freddy Forsyth.

Posted by: ilibcc at January 5, 2004 at 03:58 PM

The part I found interesting was this

"Why are they bothering? It's a novel, after all. Can you imagine the left caring enough about Tom Clancy's latest to go to the barricades?"

I did a quick search on Google for "Tom Clancy Right Wing Conservative" and quickly found a lot of liberals who seem to think Clancy is the Godfather of Right Wing Extremism with reference to Timothy McVeigh, Ruby Ridge, etc.

Posted by: KenG at January 5, 2004 at 05:35 PM

I read a LeCarre book about 20 years ago. It was God-awful, boring stuff.

Posted by: Latino at January 6, 2004 at 05:14 AM

"I used to love LeCarre's Cold War novels but he's been going downhill since the Berlin Wall fell and George Smiley retired."

The Night Manager and Our Game were pretty good but I agree everything else he's written in the past 10 years sucks. He used to be an excellent writer and plotter but his last 5-6 novels read like a parody of himself. So sad.

One of the main characters in Our Game is a white Western wannabe revolutionary who steals the protagonist's much younger girlfriend with his fervor, then they both disappear into Chechnya. Le Carre is somewhat critical of this figure but admires him too.

Posted by: Yehudit at January 6, 2004 at 06:04 PM

Why did Anne Summers remain silent when a woman was assaulted on the floor of the Australian Parliament in December 2003? What a fake!

Posted by: john at January 15, 2004 at 09:55 PM