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Spontaneous Aphorisms

The Spymaster as Vacuum-Cleaner Salesman [by DL]

Graham Greene<<<

And the sad man is cock of all his jests.

-- George Herbert

>>>

Epigraph to Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana (1958). The protagonist -- an English widower living in pre-Castro Cuba -- is a vacuum-cleaning salesman named Wormwold, as unattractive a name as Greene could manage. In order to satisfy the demands of intelligence officers in a gray faceless London building, Wormwold dupes them by creating "purely notional spies" and killing them off, "like a bad novelist preparing an effect." (Alec Guiness plays him in the movie.) The book is in a comic tenor but is less a spoof than a forcible statement of the extent to which military intelligence work and espionage fiction resemble one another.

-- DL


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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