Monday, December 19, 2016.Six more shopping days till Christmas. Friday night’s snow was a beauty if you were up about about 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. A blanket, an inch or two, and everything white. But if you got up at 8:30 am, the roads and sidewalks already were black and dark brown wet, with the hoods, roofs and trunks of the parked cars still white with snow cover. Then the thermometer moved up into the low 50s by early afternoon, and that was that. Last night at this writing (10:30 pm) it was getting windy and cold with temps dropping into the 20s.
I just finished readingJohn LeCarre’s “memoir” — “The Pigeon Tunnel; Stories from My Life.” Not a mystery reader, or an espionage mystery reader, I’d never read John LeCarre before although I am aware of how popular he is and more than once I’ve read others — whose literary opinions I respect — who have great praise for his talent.
That said, I can see why others who praise him feel the way they do about his work. As far as a memoir goes, this is a subtler one. Much. None of that “I was born ...” Although he gets around to the basics, but subtly, usually backing into them via another anecdote about “characters” he’s created from his models. He writes mainly about how he created the characters in his various books, even revealing some individuals on whom he bases those characters. Generally. Including members of his family.
His chapter on what it was like to get to meet Yasir Arafat. Very complex. Down this road, around that corner, up those stairs, out that door, car rides blindfolded, in one door out another, down that tunnel, up to that plateau and then: surprise! There he is, Yasir, baby! Real as you (or me — human). Then there’s a chapter on Richard Burton being cast to play the lead in “Spy Who Came In From.” A study of a personality, an ego, living on both sides of the fence and behaving thusly. He wasn’t the character LeCarre (or Cornwell, the author’s real name – David Cornwell) had in mind. At all. And then there's the stories about spies he came to know and know (not “love”). There will always be spies, he tells us because people like to spy. No kidding. The whole world’s into it now in the Tech Age. Power; that grand delusion.
For those who are LeCarre readers (and haven’t read his memoir yet), you won’t be surprised at how little of the personal details he reveals. But ... he isn’t hiding. Taking you on his trips, his explorations, the characters both famous and anonymous, you begin to get a strong picture of the man and his curiosity.
The chapters are often short — two, three, five, six pages. Easy reads. Running through, however, are references to ... his father. Alluding to behavior despicable, or criminal, or lying or charming or elusive, a man who never seemed to be there, although not truly “never.” Toward the end of this memoir you come upon a much longer chapter about “dear old dad.” A character, an amalgamation of characters, the kind LeCarre would have sought out and investigated throughout his adult life, and you begin to get the Whole Story. And there’s the rub. In a way that could almost be termed elusive and subtle, but never “dishonest”; you get the picture. It’s a picture that’s true in the lives of all of us: the son is the father of the man.
An incredible life; honest, respectable, multi-faceted, failed personal relationships (marriage-type), ambitious, driven and deeply talented. A really good book. A man for all seasons ... going straight, unlike dear old dad.
Le Carré's father, Richard Thomas Archibald Cornwell.
John le Carré in Hamburg in 1964. Credit Ralph Crane/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Here in New York right now it’s holiday party time, in the offices, in the clubs, in the living rooms, dining rooms, in restaurants. Not for everybody of course for not everyone is so lucky these days. However, those of us who can and are able. One of the great ones was held last Thursday night at Doubles when Anne Hearst McInerney, Jay McInerney and George Farias held their annual “Christmas Cheer” cocktail party at Doubles, the private club in the Sherry-Netherland. Here’s a look at some of the cast:
From the publishing world came Candace Bushnell, Donna Tartt, Dirk Wittenborn, Amanda UrbanandKen Auletta, Alina Cho, Shelley Wanger, Jamee andPeter Gregory, James Reginato and Bill Buford.
Jay McInerney, Anne Hearst McInerney, Santa Claus, and George Farias
Artists Hunt Slonem, Will Cotton and dealer Mary Boone were in attendance alongside noted interior designer Alex Papachristidis. From the fashion world came Nicole Miller with Kim Taipale, Dennis Basso,Zang Toi, as well as Stacey Hadash, Carol Alt and Laurie Durning.
This year, Doubles was the image of a Christmas wonderland more than ever before, with amazing holiday décor lining the exclusive club’s already red-carpeted staircase and walls from top to bottom.
Andrew Roosevelt, Lisa McCarthy, Alex Papachristidis, and Jane Scott Hodges
Tara and Michael Rockefeller
Amanda Hearst caught up with her aunt Patricia Hearst Shaw and cousin Gillian Hearst-Shaw, and coming all the way from Los Angeles to join the festivities were Paula and Tony Peck. From the world of television came Robert Zimmerman, WNBC’sChuck Scarborough, 60 Minutes’ Steve KroftandJennet Conant, who toasted the holidays alongside Jimmy Finkelstein, Somers and Jonathan Farkas, Deborah Norville, Nick Raynes, Bill Boggs and Christopher Mason.
The cold weather didn’t discourage the glamorous attendees, perched on the lap of Santa himself for photos as they arrived, and donned antlers and tinsel while posing in a photo booth.
Barbara Bancroft, Amy Phelan, Dennis Basso, Karin Luter, and Dana Hammond Stubgen
Other prominent guests included the wife of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Judith Guiliani, as well as MichaelandTara Rockefeller, Patrick McMullan, and from the world of real estate, Bill Rudin.
Restaurateur Danny Meyer was among the fashionable guests that also included recently chosen Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and his wife Hilary Geary,Carol Mack,Alex Hitz, Debbie Bancroft, Cornelia Bregman and Jennifer Creel. The festivities also included guests Mark Gilbertson, Lady Sharon Sondes with Geoffrey Thomas, Ron Delsener, Agnes Gund, Diandra Douglas, Muffie Potter Aston, Debbie Bancroft, AndrewandJill Roosevelt, Janna Bullock, R. Couri Hay, Melissa andChappy Morris, Jeanne Lawrence, Ann Dexter-Jones and Milly de Cabrol.
Bill Siegel, Monica Crowley, Jimmy Finkelstein, Pamela Gross, and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia
Charles Atkins, Lisa Simonson, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Pamela Gross, Jimmy Finkelstein, Jennifer Creel, and Scott Nelson
George Buford, Will Cotton, Fredrick Buford, and Bill Buford
Hunt Slonem and Jackie Weld Drake
Janna Bullock and Emanuele Fiore
Mary Boone and Felicia Taylor
Jay McInerney, Laurie Durning, and George Farias
Jay McInerney and Robert Zimmerman
Kim Landrigan, Kevin Landrigan, Gigi Mortimer, Averell Mortimer, and Valesca Guerrand-Hermes
Mark Gilbertson and Candace Bushnell
Nicole Miller, Kim Taipale, Sharon Bush, Christine Schott Ledes, and George Ledes
Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Anne Hearst McInerney, Debbie Bancroft, and Milly de Cabrol
Rose Durgan and Paula Peck
Tara Rockefeller, Wilbur Ross, Hilary Geary Ross, and George Farias
Wilbur Ross, Hilary Geary Ross, Jay McInerney, and Susan Gutfreund
Zang Toi, Carol Alt, Bill Boggs, and Jane Rothschild