Three Guys One Book on Harriet the Spy

Three Guys One Book on Harriet the Spy

Something’s off with the comments section on TG1B, so this is what I wanted to say:

Three points:

 

First, Fitzhugh wrote two sequels which I’ve never read: The Long Secret and Sport (there are also sequels by other writers but I’m not interested in those).

 

Second, one of the best bits about Harriet the Spy I’ve read compared it to, among other titles, John Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy as a thematic equivalent, almost a childhood version. 

 

Third, as is obvious, I loved this book, so thanks for writing about it here!

The Spoils: January 2012

I used to buy at least twice as many more books in a single month, but those days are gone. Thankfully, the idea of “quality over quantity” takes on the strength of a bona fide principle when applied  to books. So not only am I pleased to own these titles, I’m also quite grateful to my wife; everything except the last title was her Christmas present to me:

  1. Visiting Wallace, edited by Dennis Barone and James Finnegan
  2. My Index Of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge by Paul Guest
  3. Active Boundaries: Selected Essays And Talks by Michael Palmer
  4. Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988 by Michael Palmer
  5. Hapgood: A Play by Tom Stoppard

 

In Smiley’s World

As preparation for my most-anticipated film for 2011, based on one of my favorite novels of all time, I’m currently listening to the recent Radio 4 adaptation. (Later, I plan to re-watch the television adaptation and to re-read the book, of course.)

I’ve just finished listening to the second of its three parts this morning, which means I’m as fully immersed as work and the rest of my life allows, which led to several misadventures this morning (and no, this is by no means an attempt at a Le Carre pastiche; I doubt I’ll ever have that man’s facility with language).

I arrived at the office and immediately opened the briefcase handcuffed to my wrist my bag, which contained a highly-sensitive dossier recommendation letter I wrote for an agent a student who was picking it up that morning from my local runner the Department secretary. The student requested for this letter by dropping me a note in a dead-letter drop my pigeonhole last week. He arrived as I was encoding preparing the document for his pick-up this morning. I was momentarily startled, as if he broke cover, but I simply handed him the letter and wished him luck in his mission application.

The next bit is a little funnier since I virtually sound like I’m in the intelligence business here, with minimal moments of sous rature:

One of my research assistants handed me the highly-confidential (it really was, as indicated by the stamp on the sealed envelope I was given) mission briefing project appointment from HR. (Come to think of it, it IS a mission briefing, since it details a special and somewhat secret project I’ve been tasked to do.) It was a vital document that needed to go to my contact in Personnel, who had been calling me about it for the past two weeks, so I immediately went out and headed over there to pass it on.

Since I’ve been quite absent-minded these days, it took me a while to notice the envelope had my name on it as a receiver: I was so overwhelmed by the importance of the document, which up until this morning I didn’t even know existed, that I thought it was something for Personnel’s eyes only. Realizing my mistake, I opened it, clumsily tearing the envelope in my haste, certainly looking as if I was about to read something I wasn’t supposed to. I signed the document, but realized at the last minute that I needed to take note of details (like my salary) I needed to tell Control my wife.

So I took photographs of the document with the camera on my mobile phone.

I also picked up my paycheck today, and of course, I had to show my papers faculty ID first before signing a release form that had me leaving Accounting with a smile on my face and Smiley on my head heart head heart END TRANSMISSION.

Nick Laird

Nick Laird was born the same year I was, and he’s had two novels and two collections of poetry published. In a move to vary my habit of adding books willy-nilly to my Amazon Wish List, I went ahead and ordered the newer collection.

He first caught my eye when I saw that one of his poems anthologized in The New North, an anthology of contemporary Northern Irish poetry edited by Chris Agee*, was entitled “The Use of Spies,” which interested me for several reasons:

  1. My mental Echelon sounds an alert whenever “spies” and other espionage-related words pop up in what I read, especially in poetry.
  2. I recognized the reference he was making with the title, mostly because of a childhood spent with this, rather than a deeper cultural connection with my roots.
  3. Laird apparently wrote a series of poems connected not only by titles taken from Sun Tzu but also being about married life. I want to write more love poetry, but one which dealt with marriage from rather odd perspectives (so far, I’ve written one that started with Anne Bradstreet and became an extended conceit on love as a giant robot of the mecha variety).

You can click here to listen to Laird read “The Use of Spies” and other poems, including “Wolves” and “Time for a Smoke” by Louis MacNeice (both of which I like a great deal). You may even “transcribe” his reading of that poem–which is beautiful–the way I did, because I can’t wait to get my copy of his book.

Two of Laird’s poems from the same book are also available here. Both “Holiday of a Lifetime” and “Estimates” are love poems, too, wonderful ones that capture an ache without coming across maudlin. Same with “Light Pollution.”

I’m also reading Laird’s columns for the Guardian. Even when he writes about a topic I don’t really think about, say, science and poetry, I’m tickled pink with his references to Robert Frost’s “Desert Places” and to “Hart Crane in ‘Voyages’ mode.” Three that I’d especially like to highlight are:

  1. “Like a prayer” (metaphor as agent of transformation)
  2. “Difficult ease” (which touches on my fixation with poetic difficulty)
  3. “The Slow Language Movement” (which touches on my admiration of John Olson’s “extreme reading” approach)

I love these moments of discovery.

* The death of Agee’s daughter led him to write a collection called Next to Nothing. Its  title poem references Heidegger, who I’ve been reading lately while I write a short story for the fiction workshop I don’t really talk about here: “…the human // Barnacled to the great right whale of Heidegger’s Being.”

Also of personal interest, the poem is followed by one called “Attic Grace,” which alludes to what got me interested in Ezra Pound in the first place, which brings me back to Salt Publishing, as I first came across their books when I wanted to know more about Tony Lopez‘s Covers, a collection of reworkings and “found poetry” that includes “Sequel Lines”:

We catch glimpses and echoes of Ezra Pound’s impossible fascist epic The Cantos (of which the author himself famously wrote ‘I cannot make it cohere’) in the Raworth-style self-replicating minimalist stanzas of ‘Sequel Lines’, an anti-epic freighted with unscalable detail of modernist catch-phrases, contemporary theory and non-sequiturs. ‘The unified subject / was out of a job’.