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April 01, 2005

Interview Roundup: Brendan Bernhard's Been a Busy Bee

by Ron Hogan

If you were here last year, you may remember how enthusiastic I was about Charles McCarry's Old Boys. Well, I'm even more thrilled by the republication of The Tears of Autumn, which kicks off Overlook's restoration of all the McCarry thrillers to your local bookshelves. (Powell's also apparently has a few first editions for $95 each; those of you who know more about such things would know if that's a bargain better than I would, though it certainly sounds like one.) Brendan Bernhard (LA Weekly) recently spoke with McCarry, who laughingly explains his decade in "deep cover" espionage:

"What it means is that you have an ostensible occupation, a cover job, and that you don't go about introducing yourself as a CIA agent. You donít work out of an embassy, in fact you donít go near an embassy, and all of your meetings and reporting take place clandestinely...It's one of the most boring occupations in the world, punctuated by moments of ecstasy. You sit around for days, sometimes for weeks, waiting for something you think you have made happen, to happen. And sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. Or waiting for an agent to show up. They're famous for not doing that, or showing up in the wrong place or on the wrong day, wrong hour."

Unfortunately, the article gives a way a lot of the novel's plot twists, but then again, McCarry's theory about the Kennedy assassination is put forward fairly early on; a lot of the pleasures of the book are in how McCarry fills in the details and ties the strands together. Bernhard can also be seen writing about John Ashbery for the New York Sun; he's not terribly impressed with the poet's latest material, but is open enough to get contrasting opinions, and is generally respectful to Ashbery's earned position in the contemporary poetic pantheon--though the headline certainly hints at an undercutting undercurrent. I may totally be imagining this, but it almost feels as if the story's simply going through the motions; there just isn't the same electricity that there is in the McCarry profile, or the story he filed two months ago on Bruce Wagner.

Dan Wickett talks to the multitalented Ron Rash in the latest addition to his Emerging Writers Forum, while Robert Birnbaum gets into it with Tom Bissell for The Morning News. Bissell also shows up at Largehearted Boy, putting together a playlist to accompany the stories in God Lives in St. Petersburg, in which we learn that "Animals in the Wind" was written to the strains of "Adagio for Strings." There are also tracks--and this really ought to be an iMix in the Apple Store, dammit--that range from the Beach Boys to Wilco to "pubescent lesbian pop sensations" TaTu.

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