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Category: Newsletter

Random Notes of the Season (newsletter)

Hi Everybody,
Spring has sprung, the crocuses are in bloom, and the sparrows are making a racket.

Here in New England, the gray winter days are gone but a lot of grayness remains on the streets. Not the pavement; I’m talking about automobiles. A few weeks ago it struck me that most of the cars I see driving, parked by the curb or filling parking lots are essentially colorless. Around here at least I’d say close to 90% of them are painted in shades of white, gray, and black. The darker ones may have a tint to them, but you need strong light to tell what it is. The most popular color seems to be blue, followed by red. The gaudiest ones are the primary-colored jeeps, but they’re far outnumbered by cars in formal attire. Now, of the ten cars I’ve owned, none were black, one white, and the rest mostly earth tones (if Puce is an earth tone). So either tastes have changed or colored cars are harder to come by these days. Take a survey, next few times you’re out and about (thanks to the weather and the vaccine). Are colored cars as rare where you are? What do you make of this car conformity?

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Getting the Better of a Protagonist and Vice Versa (newsletter)

It saddened me greatly when my principal muse David Cornwell—aka John le Carré—passed away last December twelfth at 89. By my lights, the Brits should make that date a national day of mourning. Were it not for the spell of the holidaze, I would have said something about it at the time, so please allow me to pay my respects now.

David Cornwell / John le Carré, recent photograph

He was a gifted storyteller. It wasn’t just how scrupulously he constructed his characters and how mercilessly he deconstructed them that I admired; he also kept me guessing about outcomes, so many of them equivocal. As in real life, few of his protagonists triumph, and some don’t make it. Along the way, he tends to adjust the attitude of some and lets others slide into more august or shrunken versions of themselves—until, like George Smiley and Peter Guillam in his 2011 A Legacy of Spies, they leap out of retirement. (Le Carré scholars reckon that Smiley would be a centenarian at the time, having cut his espionage teeth in 1930s Berlin.) Being billeted throughout Central Europe by the Foreign Services through the 1960s and having traveled widely since, Cornwell’s settings bubble with both old- and new-world authenticity.

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Coronavirus is your friend, in a way

Here in Massachusetts, yesterday the number of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases grew 30 percent overnight and will probably top 400 today. Most non-critical facilities are now locked down. And so, with a lot of new-found time on their hands more people than ever in my suburban neighborhood are out and about, enjoying the spring weather — biking or walking alone, as couples, with dogs or kids, and actually stopping to talk. Amid all this tsuris, it’s exhilarating to see such stirrings of a community makeover.

The good news doesn’t stop there, so let’s get on with my facile attempt to divert you from your apocalyptic musings. Instead of enduring a pitch for my work this punishing month, find here a public service announcement of sorts.

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