A Not Really Most Wanted Man

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Spy novels were never really my thing. Police dramas: definitely. Dark tales of Cold War espionage by John le Carré: not so much. Just never my style.

But I recently saw a copy of A Most Wanted Man on sale in a bookstore, and I was interested enough to purchase it for a bad reason- I wanted to see the movie. But like a neurotic reader, I always have to read the book first. The struggle.

This was not a good choice when it comes to a first le Carré read. However, it wasn’t the worst. I found the saga of Issa, Annabel, and Tommy Brue interesting enough to finish the text. Le Carré moves slowly, almost brutally. The deep introspection allows the reader to feel the heightened alert of the characters, the sneaking about, the carefulness and attention to hiding every move.

Determining Issa’s innocence is compelling enough to finish the book even though I, as a reader, knew this was far from my favorite tale. I was invested, however; I had to see it through.

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I also think le Carré uses clever and precise dialogue effectively throughout the novel, something that, through my research, told me is not always as prevalent in his other work. Dialogue can be tricky; too much dialogue threatens the creative storytelling but not enough makes the reader’s eyes glaze over. Le Carré has an excellent balance of believable, credible dialogue that helps move the story along . . . which is excellent because this novel unfolds at a snail’s pace.

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Song of Syllables

Understanding syllables might actually come in handy when you’re forced to study STUFF LIKE THIS.

I’m a language person for one reason and one reason alone, and that is because I am not a math person. It has taken nearly twenty-six years for me to accept this fact, but I finally feel like I have buried that horse in the ground.

I’m not dumb or incompetent. I just can’t do math.

I understand the argument from our mathematician friends that math is simply an alternate form of language, one represented with a particular system of symbols that happens to be numbers instead of letters like spoken and written language, but if this is indeed the case and the “math is not real” argument that I attempted to philosophically argue to my parents when failing geometry in 11th grade doesn’t really hold up, then this is a language I have learned to abandon except when needing to calculate tips in restaurants and in the nail salon.

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The Barrier and Graham Greene

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Reading what is often referred to as Graham Greene’s chef-d’œuvre, 1940’s The Power and the Glory, was not exactly at the top of my summer reading list this year, but coincidentally, much like my adherence to reading Ibsen’s The Doll House and Hedda Gabler every January, I somehow have managed to accidentally read a Greene novel every summer for the past four years. This year makes number five, and somehow, again, I have managed not to read The Power and the Glory until now. In some ways, however, I’m not convinced it is better late than never.

I wish I could have spent much more time with The Power and the Glory, an account of a priest living and avoiding authorities in the Tabasco district of Mexico in the 1930s, a time when the government attempted to literally ‘Soviet Union’ Catholicism/religion right out of the country. I’m a sucker for Judeo-Christian allusions, references, and symbols in novels, which this book literally drips in, and it’s even better when I have to search for them, like some type of word search that throws me back to my childhood at St. Joseph’s Catholic School (the same three answers on every homework question on how to be a better Catholic: 1. Don’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent, 2. Pray., 3. Don’t steal my brother’s sins when waiting in line for Confession because I can’t think of my own.) Unfortunately, I had to finish the book rather quickly as I was housesitting and needed to return objects to their rightful place.

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