Sun Tzu was a great fan of intelligence and spies in particular — check out Chapter 13 if you need a refresher — because it’s much easier to operate inside opponents’ OODA loops if you already know what they’re going to do. As luck would have it, today is the birthday of Louise de Bettignies, AKA Alice Dubois, one of the greatest intelligence operatives of all time.
To explain why, a little historical perspective might prove useful. Although the German Schlieffen Plan failed to hook around Paris and end World War I in 1914, it left the Germans occupying a fair portion of northeastern France for the next 4 years. From January to September, 1915, this area provided the theater of operations for de Bettignies, whose network alerted the British to German plans and tactical movements and almost took out the Kaiser himself. Among other feats of derring-do.
There are several bios of her, but historical fiction might be a good place to start. To this end, Kate Quinn has written a most readable — “page turner” wouldn’t be too strong — story of her operation, The Alice Network. I recommend it highly.
Happy Birthday, Louise.
J.K. Rowling’s’ new book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, is positively Faulknerian. No, I’m not talking about the length of her sentences, but in tone and characterization, it reminds me of his classics like Absolom, Absolom! Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury:
- It takes place in a small town and exploits long-standing relationships among the town’s inhabitants
- It deals with “the human heart in conflict with itself,” as WCF put it in his Nobel acceptance speech. And so many of them to deal with.
- There are Snopeses, lots of them.
- It’s really dark. Few people laugh, and when they do, it’s rarely a good sign.
Fiction is such a personal preference, so I hesitate to recommend specific works to other readers. As for me, I liked it, but then I like Faulkner a lot, too. And such contemporary noiristas as James Lee Burke. Rowling truly lives up to Faulkner’s imperative:
[Man] is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.
Can Pagford be a 21st Century Jefferson and Yarvil the new Yoknapatawpha? She left enough threads hanging that it should be easy, if she wants to do it, to weave a new tale about them. I, as a former resident of Jefferson, certainly hope she does.
J. K. Rowling’s new book just came. I ordered it last week from Amazon, the hard copy because it was only a couple more bucks than the Kindle edition. I feel bad, greenwise, but I can loan this to spouse, kids, friends, etc. Would it be too strong to say that publishers are stupid?
Vacancy was just released yesterday. Amazon had promised it by Monday via 2-day shipping — I signed up for Amazon Prime — but it was in today’s mail. A great example of zheng / qi: meet expectations and then some. Amazon is VERY good at this.
This will be my first book by Rowling, although I’ve seen several of the Harry Potter movies. Let you know.
Impressed as I am by Pat Lang’s highly successful foray into historical fiction, I have decided to jump in with my own tale of betrayal, deceit, and ultimately redemption. Until I finish that one, however, here’s a short story inspired by something that actually happened to me back in the summer of 1991, when I was in international sales for Lockheed.
“God Bless the Whole Third World,”
or in the local dialect, “The Real Palawagi.”
Does it have anything to do with Boyd? Is there a Princess OODA in Around the World in 80 Days?