Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Bureaucratic Bushel

I've started reading John Le Carré's The Honourable Schoolboy finally, after saving it for the proverbial rainy day for a long, long time. Rewatching Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy inspired me. At first, I had a had time getting into it. And then I hit the chapter in which Le Carré has to reprise the storyline of the book's predecessor, which felt a little forced at first, just as similar portions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets struck me as needlessly thorough. I have to remind myself that most people don't remember books the way I do.

At any rate, while enduring a bout of sleeplessness last night, I managed to hit my stride in The Honourable Schoolboy. As I recall, it has often taken me a little while to reach the point at which a Le Carré novel clicks, so I shouldn't have been surprised at the wait. Now that I'm locked into the book, I'm able to appreciate Le Carré's prose more readily. He's an extremely adept fashioner of distinct characters. And he manages to shine a great deal of light on bureaucracy along the way. Take this paragraph, for example:
"The big table," Sam agreed, and lapsed into a leisurely silence. There is a particular intensity about clever men whose brains are under-used, and sometimes there is no way they can control their emanations. In that sense, they are a great deal more at risk under the bright lights than their more stupid colleagues. "You checking me against the record, old boy?" Sam asked.
I've strung thoughts along these lines together on many occasions, but never managed to plug in the cord. Looking back on my experience of various workplaces with Le Carré's assistance, I can recognize dozens of situations in which being bright proved dangerous in the manner he describes. It's frequently a wise idea to dim one's bulb for strategic purposes. But light has a way of bending its way around barriers.

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