Reading Material (#SFWApro)

A PERFECT SPY by John LeCarré has a horrififed British intelligence officer trying to track down chameleonic spymaster Magnus Pym without letting the US know that he may be a traitor of Kim Philby proportions. This, however, is mostly a frame for Pym to reminisce about his life and how it was molded by his even more chameleonic, glad-handing, manipulative father. This is LeCarré’s personal favorite of his books (with the possible exception of The Constant Gardener) due to the heavy autobiographical content, Rick being a stand-in for LeCarré’s own manipulative father (judging from the intro to this edition, the real deal was considerably nastier). Well written though a bit uneven, and even more cynical than LeCarré’s usual, Pym scoffing at Spy Who Came in From the Cold’s claim that the spy networks are the Sane People who keep the crazies from destroying everything.
AMERICAN DAUGHTER GONE TO WAR: On the Front Lines With an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Winnie Smith is, like Home Before Morning, background reading for Southern Discomforts. This is well-executed, though familiar, in its story of grim combat surgery, but it’s interesting to compare the personal lives of the two women: Smith’s comes across much tidier, with fewer affairs and no drugs stronger than booze and tobacco until after the war. Smith also appears to have become much more bitter than van Devanter at everyone from rear-echelon officers to pampered USO stars to the trivial problems of the patients she treated later in the states. According to Smith, it wasn’t until she read Van Devanter’s book that she realized how much anger and pain she was holding inside; good, though I’m not sure it added more to my insight.
SID AND MARTY KROFFT: A Critical Study of Saturday Morning Children’s Television, 1969-1993 by Hal Erickson looks at the creators of countless Saturday morning shows of my childhood including such time travel-relevant ones as the two Land of the Lost series and Lost Saucer. Erickson follows the Kroffts from their Poupees de Paris nudie puppet review (“In those days, live nudie shows were rare enough some of the audience found it quite titillating.”) through their long chain of kidvid starting with H.R. Pufnstuff and their several prime-time variety shows (most successfully Donny and Marie). Dry, but interesting as someone who grew up with these guys (though I was never as fond of them as Erickson). There’s also an interesting appendix discussing a lawsuit the Kroffts filed against McDonalds over ripping off their ideas for McDonald land
H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE, of course, time travel’s other foundational work, and like Connecticut Yankee it proved informative to reread it. I hadn’t realized how closely the Pal movie follows the book, the big change being that the Time Traveler rescues Weena from the Morlocks and then destroys them (in the original he heads home after she dies in a fire).
While Wells certainly gets as didactic as Twain, he has the advantage of writing at much shorter length and not having his protagonist as smugly confident, the Time Traveler admitting how often his theories about the future world turn out dead wrong. Wells also works in a lot of jokes about previous utopian/future SF, pointing out that most people who visit the future are unlikely to get detailed explanations of how the sewers work (the emphasis on the personal side is what keeps Wells’ SF alive when so many others of that era are vanished).


Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Reading

4 responses to “Reading Material (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Terminating the Continuum: Time-travel TV (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Super-heroes and black ops: books read (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Libraries, bloggers, corrupt bankers and a knightly wordsmith: books (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: RIP John Le Carré | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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