Larry is reading The Pigeon Tunnel, a collection of memories by John le Carre. Over breakfast yesterday he read this excerpt to me about the transition from the Soviet Union to Russia, which made me laugh out loud:
…in 1993, criminalized capitalism had seized hold of the failed state like a frenzy and turned it into the Wild East. I was keen to take a look at that new, windy Russia, too. It therefore happened that my two trips straddled the greatest social upheaval in Russian history since the Bolshevik Revolution. And uniquely–if you set aside a coup or two, a few thousand victims of contract killings, gang shootouts, political assassinations, extortion and torture–the transition was, by Russian standard, bloodless.
Larry read me an article by John le Carré in the NY Times Suday about Philip Semour Hoffman in the film “A Most Wanted Man,” a remembrance more than an obituary. It was beautifully written. Here are a few excerpts:
“Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes.”
“It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction… Philip had to have that dialogue with himself, and it must have been a pretty morbid one, filled with questions like: At which point exactly do I lose all sense of moderation? Or, why do I insist on going through with this whole thing when deep down I know it can only end in tragedy? But tragedy lured Bachmann like a wrecker’s lamp, and it lured Philip, too.” Continue reading “That man can write!”