A Writer Considers an Alternate Life as an Undercover Agent

An interesting essay on the Lapham’s Quarterly website by Jennifer duBois entitled “MFA vs. CIA.” Ms. duBois is the author of two novels, one of which, A Partial History of Lost Causes, I read with my fellow curlers as a book club selection of the month. Although Curling Was Full did not go coo-coo-for-cocoa-puffs ecstatic over the book, Ms. duBois certainly shows great promise as a young writer.

If you don’t have the time/desire to read the entire essay, here are some of the more golden-like golden nuggets:

“Intelligence failures, like literary ones, tend to stem from failures of empathetic imagination.”

“Writers and spies share an ability—and a willingness—to hide in plain sight, to deflect attention not only from the nature of their role but from the fact that they have any role at all. A spy obscures his relationship to events in order to affect them, just as a writer hovers anonymously beyond the page in order to exert her tyrannical, obsessive control.”

“[A] condition of knowing the truth is to never, never tell it.”

“Writers and spies also tend to inspire related suspicions, though they differ (as ever, and by an order of magnitude) in degree. Both are thought to exist on some level apart from normal people, even while living in their midst. Both are known to have skewed relationships to consensus reality and predatory attitudes toward other people’s information.”

“[S]uspense comes from the feeling that things might have gone differently. In real life, we call this free will—and just as in fiction, it may be an illusion.”

 

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