John LeCarre

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tingdzin
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John LeCarre

Post by tingdzin »

John LeCarre passed.One of the finest English writers of the last century. Anybody else a fan?
Genjo Conan
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Genjo Conan »

I don't think there was anyone better at writing the kind of books that he wrote. Some of his novels were nearly perfect, and most of the rest were merely very good.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Geopolitics did him no favours. The end of the Cold War made his early books strangely irrelevant for quite a while and it took him years to find another topic. I returned to a couple of the early ones recently and decided that they are old enough to be read and enjoyed as historical fiction. :thinking:

Back in the day I enjoyed Brian Freemantle's Charlie Muffin books, in the same genre. These days I prefer crime fiction - Ian Rankin, Donna Leon, Peter Temple, Gary Disher and others. Temple and Disher are Aussies, so you may not know them, but their books stand up well in comparison to anyone in the world.

:reading:
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PeterC
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by PeterC »

I read the new book he published a couple of years ago - A Legacy of Spies - which prompted me to reread the spy who came in from the cold, which it’s a continuation of. Legacy of Spies tries to reconcile the moral absolutes of the Cold War with the modern world where nothing much makes sense: it revisits the events of Spy Who Came In From The Cold through the lens of modern morality with the benefit of decades’ distance. George Smiley even makes an appearance at the end, reinvented as a modern pan-European idealist.

I think there was a final retrospective message hidden in it. “Le Carre” - whatever his name really was - did work in MI6 briefly, so knew what he was talking about, at least for the outset of the Cold War. It’s notable that in the entirety of the Smiley series there isn’t a single example of actual, real-world events being affected much by the spy world. The intelligence they are battling over is purely knowledge of each others’ espionage operations - discovery of, compromise of or elimination of each others’ agents. Le Carre clearly felt the whole game was pointless and self-defeating. Yet he clearly felt sympathy for the people in it. He saw the as good or evil based on their intentions, rather than their affiliation and their methods. He seemed to have a far more negative view of those who practiced betrayal than of those who encouraged it. He showed both a revulsion for the world he described and a admiration of it. He was a popular writer, not a technically very good writer, but still extremely entertaining and though-provoking.
tingdzin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by tingdzin »

PeterC wrote: Sat Dec 19, 2020 11:26 am not a technically very good writer,
:o
narhwal90
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by narhwal90 »

I'm generally in agreement with PeterC on the technical vs popular aspect of his books. I worked my way several before tiring of the reliance on jargon and mystique... clearly not my thing.
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by PeterC »

tingdzin wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:25 am
PeterC wrote: Sat Dec 19, 2020 11:26 am not a technically very good writer,
:o
Let’s just say that he’s no Conrad.

There are writers you read because of the beauty of their language. There are writers you read because their ideas are challenging. And there are writers you read because they’re fun. “LeCarre” was in the third category.
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by narhwal90 »

I was thinking about that point- I always liked Wodehouse - the plots were setpieces but to me the artistry was the dialog, and ER Burroughs being the opposite.
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Bristollad »

For me, when I'm reading fiction, I like a good story - the technical artistry of the writing comes second place. A good story well told is best of course. A bad or boring story written well is still bad or boring. Stories don't have to be original but they have to make me engage emotionally. Bad writing can of course ruin a good story.

Some of the early Le Carre stories are good but the few of the later ones I've perused I haven't felt the need to finish - the stories were uninteresting.
denise
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by denise »

on the enjoy note with mystery...Lawrence Sanders..
Genjo Conan
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Genjo Conan »

Eh...

Le Carre wrote good dialog, and he was a fantastic plotter. I don't think he was a particularly artistic writer, but his prose never got in its own way, which is more than you can say for a lot of writers who are considered "good."

I was an editorial assistant at a publishing house for a little while, which probably gives me a somewhat skewed perspective, but I'll take a writer whose prose is merely "fine" over one who thinks they're an Artist any day.
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Norwegian »

PeterC wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:40 am
tingdzin wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:25 am
PeterC wrote: Sat Dec 19, 2020 11:26 am not a technically very good writer,
:o
Let’s just say that he’s no Conrad.

There are writers you read because of the beauty of their language. There are writers you read because their ideas are challenging. And there are writers you read because they’re fun. “LeCarre” was in the third category.
It's similar with the example of movie vs. film. I think some of the Marvel superhero movies are quite fun. But they are not in the same category as films made by Tarkovsky, Bresson, Bergman, Parajanov, Tárr, Mizoguchi, Dreyer, etc.

Similarly there are writers I enjoy which are quite fun. But they are not in the same category as writers like Krasznahorkai, Szentkuthy, McElroy, Joyce, Woolf, Barnes, Gass, etc.

And that's fine. Because they're doing completely different things.
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The Guru is Śrī Heruka.
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Shotenzenjin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Shotenzenjin »

Tom Clancy is the American version
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tingdzin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by tingdzin »

Shotenzenjin wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 6:51 pm Tom Clancy is the American version
:o :o

IMHO, comparing LeCarre and Clancy is like comparing a fine home-cooked meal to fast food. The latter may satisfy at times, but not in the long run. I've only read one Clancy, but I found his characters two-dimensional, the dialogue void of subtlety, and the plot rather contrived. Each to his own, I guess.
tingdzin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by tingdzin »

Genjo Conan wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:40 pm Eh...

Le Carre wrote good dialog, and he was a fantastic plotter. I don't think he was a particularly artistic writer, but his prose never got in its own way, which is more than you can say for a lot of writers who are considered "good."

I was an editorial assistant at a publishing house for a little while, which probably gives me a somewhat skewed perspective, but I'll take a writer whose prose is merely "fine" over one who thinks they're an Artist any day.
Fair comment.
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by narhwal90 »

I would think LeCarre is head and shoulders above Clancy. I put Clancy at Dan Brown aka davinci code level... I read a few pages over the shoulder of a fellow passenger on a plane.. will never get those minutes back.
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Shotenzenjin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by Shotenzenjin »

I'm not a fan of Clancy to be clear. But for spy fiction and popularity he could be viewed as the American version of le carre

As a best selling and known genre author.

I'm not into spy fiction. I'm mainly into sci Fi./fantasy but lean to sci fi

My favourite author though is gene wolf and his solar cycle book of the new sun.

He is a master of prose. Truly wonderful actually. A little thread drift
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

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kirtu
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by kirtu »

Shotenzenjin wrote: Mon Dec 21, 2020 6:51 pm Tom Clancy is the American version
LeCarre had an intelligence background (both MI5 and MI6) and was an accomplished writer.

A lot of people liked Clancy. Clancy didn't have an intelligence background per se but was thought to have connections throughout government and made what many thought of as astute deductions. John McLaughlin was impressed and did an interview with Clancy in the 90's which basically consisted of Clancy denying the rumored governmental connections while McLaughlin tried to tease out how Clancy developed his ideas. However at least later Clancy later did develop connections with various governmental officials because of what was perceived as his insights into geo-politics. A better comparison to Clancy would be Trevanian (Rodney William Whitaker). Clancy does show some understanding of the military and of internal military competition.

Can't find the McLaughlin interview but here he is with Charlie Rose


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humble.student
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by humble.student »

Cornwell was a competent writer, well above average, but hardly "one of the finest." His intelligence background wasn't very high level either, apparently, and he relied on good old imagination for a lot of his plots, not that there is anything wrong with that. Well written and engaging, to be sure, but not exactly Graham Greene, for instance.

An acquaintance with a fleeting experience in intelligence once remarked that the main thing about his work is that it captured the whole plodding obscurity of that world; following unknown people around, for reasons unknown, and never finding out what it was all about in the end. The lack of glamour, in other words, which gave his works a realistic touch.

On that note, Anthony Burgess wrote a very underrated spoof of both Le Carré and Fleming, Tremor of Intent, and Somerset Maugham, another gentleman with an intelligence background, also wrote a collection of spy short tories as well, Ashenden, which is worth reading if only for its historical (and literary) value at this point.

To compare Clancy to Trevanian is to miss the point: Clancy was a commercial writer churning out thrillers; Trevanian fancied himself as a serious author unable to gain recognition in the literary field and who turned to writing pot-boilers with almost parodic levels of pretension - Shibumi is a great book for that reason.
tingdzin
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Re: John LeCarre

Post by tingdzin »

humble.student wrote: Tue Dec 22, 2020 3:48 am On that note, Anthony Burgess wrote a very underrated spoof of both Le Carré and Fleming, Tremor of Intent,
Oh, I like a lot of Burgess, too, so I'll have to read that. I also recommend Burgess' Earthly Powers, which he rightly regarded as his masterpiece.

Parenthetically, saying that LeCarre's works are "spy stories]" is like saying Cezanne was a water lily painter.

It always seemed to me that many of Greene's novels were a bit formulaic in that they had a world-weary protagonist, usually British, who was jaded but nevertheless so much more intelligent and aware than his antagonist, who was usually blundering and naive, usually European or American. Besides which there was an obtrusive Catholic overlay to a lot of his stuff. Then again I am far from having read all his books, and I thought they did a good job making a film out of The Quiet American.
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