Thursday, October 29, 2015

Spielberg's Bridge of Spies

What can one say about a movie which makes Soviet spy Rudolf Abel into a dignified and sympathetic protagonist, the US government into an undignified and unsympathetic antagonist, and portrays ordinary Americans as paranoid, hysterical, hostile anti-Communist fanatics who persecute a noble dissenter dedicated to human rights?

That it was directed by Stephen Spielberg? That it stars Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance? That it was based on the U-2 crisis in the Eisenhower administration, and subsequent multiple spy swap in the Kennedy administration? That it was filmed in Brooklyn, Berlin, and Poland? That it is titled Bridge of Spies?

None of the above.

Bridge of Spies may be a Spielberg blockbuster, but it is about as tendentious (and at 144 minutes, almost as long) as  D. W. Griffith's Confederate apology, Birth of a Nation. Like Griffith, Spielberg is a master of cinematic technique as well as a historical propagandist. His reenactment of the Francis Gary Powers shootdown is a memorably expert sequence of dramatic cross-cutting and special effects.

But at a higher level, the film falls far short of genius.

While paying lip service to the repressive Soviet regime (by including the building of the Berlin Wall and shooting of escapees), Spielberg's actual target appears to be what he depicts as mid-Century America's irrational fear of communism, which led to perversions of justice by an oppressive state. To show that American justice is unjust, that American democracy is undemocratic, and that American freedom is unfree, Spielberg and screenwriters Joel and Ethan Cohen twist history to fit into an anti-Cold War "narrative" and turn what could have been a simple spy story into what looks to this viewer like an attempted period adaptation of themes from Ibsen's Enemy of the People.

Some obvious rewrites of history to fit Spielberg's "narrative": Allen Dulles was not head of the CIA during Kennedy's spy swap, it was John McCone. The lawyer played by Tom Hanks, James B. Donovan, was not an innocent insurance attorney tricked into indirectly working for the CIA, but former counsel for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during  World War II.
Mark Rylance's Rudolf Abel was not punished by the USSR,  as Spielberg's cryptic ending suggests, but rather hailed as a hero of the USSR, lauded in a 1968 Soviet film about his exploits entitled Dead Season (one wonders whether Spielberg may have seen this movie) and whose portrait was featured on a Communist postage stamp.

Likewise, fear of nuclear war in 1962 was not a paranoid fantasy, nor a weird grade-school civil defense exercise, but occurred only after Abel's fellow spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered secrets of the atomic bomb to the Russians, which in turn led to the very real Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 only a few months after JFK traded Abel for Francis Gary Powers and Frederic Pryor. Thirteen months after what would become known as the Thirteen Days, a Communist member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee killed President Kennedy. Even paranoids have enemies...

Note that the real-life second banana in this drama, economist Frederic Pryor, has said that the film was not accurate about him--or his East German lawyer, either. He has noted the filmmakers took "liberties," for example, telling a Swarthmore College publication that Donovan's negotiations did not continue until his release:

"No, that was the biggest error. I had been prepared for my release about two days before it occurred. But because the East Germans weren’t happy about releasing me, they played a little trick. When my lawyer drove me to Checkpoint Charlie, they had us sit there for half an hour. The East Germans deliberately delayed the exchange of Powers and Abel, who were not supposed to be exchanged until after I was released. So I sat there until they finally escorted me to the border. It didn’t happen like it did in the movie at all."

So what? one might ask. Doesn't a creative artist have poetic license to play with facts to tell a better story?

Of course, if the story is better than the truth--but the plot of Bridge of Spies is worse--it is a lie told in service of political agenda designed to undercut faith in the American people, and reinforce a notion of moral equivalence between two sides in the Cold War.

As he did in Lincoln, in which Spielberg transformed Abolitionist Connecticut into a Slave State with the help of screenwriter Tony Kushner--making Henry Fonda's funny, humane, and warm Young Mr. Lincoln into a cold, corrupt, creepy autocrat more Stalinist than Stalin himself--Spielberg turns what could have been a taught thriller into a leisurely, bloated civics lesson about the dangers of intolerance, in Bridge of Spies,

To do this, he contrasts an admirably cool serenity and professionalism of Rudolf Abel to hysteria and extremism of American citizens and government agents. Yes, the East Germans and Russians who shoot refugees are bad--but New Yorkers who shoot bullets through Donovan's window are no better! Look, Abel is an artist! His wife is a musician! He is a cultured, sensitive, reasonable man! Not like the barbarians of New York and Washington!

When Tom Hanks asks Mark Rylance why he doesn't get upset, he only answers, "Would it help?"

How reasonable! How intelligent! How sophisticated!

How much better than the incompetent Francis Gary Powers, who can't even self-destruct his U-2, or use his suicide kit! How much smoother and better informed than student Frederic Pryor, who doesn't seem to comprehend the forces at play!

Yes, Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance are also better actors than anyone else in the film! Just in case you didn't know who to root for...

In conclusion, what is most disturbing about Bridge of Spies is that Spielberg and the Cohen brothers have willfully constructed a narrative designed to pit James B. Donovan and Rudolf Abel against both the Americans and the Russians--in order to portray a Communist spy and his American lawyer as heroes.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Michel Houellebecq's Submission

French author Michel Houellebecq is in some ways a variation on America's Mark Steyn. Like the Canadian expatriate, he is a prolific writer and controversialist who did not graduate from university; he questions the conventional wisdom; he has been prosecuted for criticizing Islam and won in court; he is a multimedia content provider of films, books, website, recordings, television and radio; he is a lightning rod for both Left and Right--not to mention Islamic fundamentalists. Unlike Steyn, a persona non grata in academia, Houellebecq is professor of literature at the European Graduate School, where he teaches a course on the aesthetics of Frankfurt School Marxist Theodor W. Adorno; his work is classified as fiction rather than reportage; his focus is on France rather than America, and he has managed to escape pigeonholing as a right-winger, unlike Eric Zemmour, author of Le Suicide Francais (which has not yet been published in English translation). So, on second thought, perhaps Houellebecq isn't really France's Mark Steyn-- maybe he's more like France's Salman Rushdie.

In any case, Houellebecq's latest success de scandal,  Submission: A Novel, published in translation this month in America, created a sensation when it hit the bookstores in France just as Islamic fundamentalists attacked Charlie Hebdo and the HyperCacher supermarket. In the aftermath of that horrific mass murder, Houellebecq was given police protection by the French government--then cancelled his book tour.

All of which adds a frisson to reading 246 widely-spaced pages, with plenty of blank spaces at the beginning and end of each chapter, and lots of detailed sex scenes.  Which means, Submission is more a novella than a novel, more a direction than a destination. The dystopian plot, such as it is between long digressions on literature and philosophical musings, hinges on an academic crisis faced by a professor named Francois whose career depends upon conversion to Islam--following a victory by the Muslim Brotherhood Party in French elections. This event has led to the end of French secularism and its replacement by Islamism, with the cooperation of the nativist right-wingers (who like the family values in Islam) and the socialists (who go along out of political calculation). Purged from his university post, and at sea after completing his dissertation "Joris-Karl Huysmans: Out of the Tunnel" Francois at first resists the change and contemplates escape--embarking upon an exploration of decadence, including a number of sexual encounters with prostitutes and girlfriends, visits to his sister in the French countryside, and a "farewell" to his Jewish mistress before she flees to Israel. Alone and adrift, Francois initially contemplates Huysman's conversion to Catholicism, visiting scenes from Huysman's time in a French monastery, then, after he is offered editorship of a prestigious scholarly edition of Huysman's works at Pleiade, and is invited to the palatial mansion in which Pauline Reage once wrote The Story of O, now home to his boss, Professor Robert Redigier, a former right-winger turned Islamist, who makes Francois an offer he can't refuse.  So, after a brief cost-benefit analysis, and noting that he has no Israel of his own to which he might escape, Francois plunges in, recites the Shahada at a mosque, and takes a tenured professorship at the Sorbonne, as well as the promise of three wives (he can't afford four yet), among other plums. 

Rediger, the academic grandee and politician who offers Francois the keys to the kingdom, plays Mephistopheles to Francois's Faust (and doesn't "Francois" sound curiously close to "France"?). Rediger in the novel is part politician and part scholar, and 100% ambitious as drawn by Houellebecq. The character's name is very similar to that of real-life French intellectual Robert Rediger, of whom Wikipedia informs us (we cut and paste in solidarity with Houellebecq's public stance that copying Wikipedia is not plagiarism):

Robert Redeker is a French writer and philosophy teacher. He was teaching at the Pierre-Paul-Riquet high school, in Saint-Orens-de-Gameville, and at the École Nationale de l'Aviation Civile. He is currently in hiding under police protection.
On 19 September 2006, a few days before the Islamic month of Ramadan, he wrote an opinion piece for Le Figaro, a French secular and conservative newspaper, which quickly removed the article from its public database. In it, he attacked Islam and Muhammad, writing: "Pitiless war leader, pillager, butcher of Jews and polygamous, this is how Mohammed is revealed by the Koran." He called the Qur'an "a book of incredible violence", adding: "Jesus is a master of love, Muhammad a master of hate."[1] That day's issue of Le Figaro was banned in Egypt and Tunisia.[2] Afterwards, Redeker received various death threats originating from one Islamist website (where he was sentenced to death; they posted his address and a photograph of his home). He requested and was given police protection.[2][3] A man has been arrested because of a hate mail he sent to Redeker.
On 3 October 2006 a group of renowned French intellectuals published "appel en faveur de Robert Redeker" (an appeal in support of Robert Redeker) in Le Monde, among them Elisabeth BadinterAlain FinkielkrautAndré GlucksmannClaude Lanzmann (with the editorial staff of "Les Temps Modernes") and Bernard-Henri Lévy. They see their most fundamental liberties endangered by a handful of fanatics under the pretense of religious laws, and decry the tendency in Europe to avoid "provocations" in order to not anger supposed foreign sensitivities.[4] The vast majority of the "official" responses was, however, hostile to the ex-philosophy teacher - including France's 'Le Monde' who "characterized Redeker’s piece as “excessive, misleading, and insulting.”
In Submission, Rediger takes the road not taken by Redeker in real life--submission to Islam--and therefore basks in worldly success, spiritual peace and bourgeois contentment. 

That, in a sense, makes Submission a counter-factual novel, along the lines of those "What if Hitler had won the Second World War?" books which describe Piccadilly Circus in London festooned with Swastikas after the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson became King and Queen of England. Houellebecq has in effect taken France's history of collaboration with the Germans under Vichy and transposed its attitudes of acceptance to a contemporary threat.

Likewise, Submission recalls Voltaire's Candide: Or Optimism, with Rediger in place of Dr. Pangloss and Francois in Candide's role. As such, it is very, very, very French.

And again, Submission is also the title of the 2004 Dutch film by Theo Van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali that led to his murder and her exile. The gist of their film was that Islam literally meant 
Wait, there's more... Submission might have one more jeu de mots at work. To judge this book by its cover--a sheaf of manuscripts bound with red tape--it looks like a manuscript submission for publication, a doctoral dissertation, or a submission to the Academie Francaise

Perhaps in publishing this satire, Houellebecq has made his submission to the Invisible College of the Republic of Letters, an application from an engage French philosophe, in the tradition of Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau to join the immortals of Western Civilization opposed to Superstition, Feudalism, and Religious Intolerance.

Whether Houellebecq manages to enter the Pantheon because of this book, only time will tell...but he certainly has made a courageous literary effort, taking a literary stand on behalf of France's civilizing mission in the Clash of Civilizations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet Rings True Today

Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Hamlet came to Washington's Mazza Gallerie mall last Thursday night. On the giant screen, live in HD from the Barbican (well, tape-delayed, as we saw the 7 pm encore), Cumberbatch's huge head in tight close-up--so close that you could literally see him sweat--made for riveting viewing.

Perhaps not the most elevated interpretation ever staged, perhaps a bit juvenile, rather loud,  too "trendy" (Horatio as an urban hipster seemed a bridge too far), too sooty (couldn't King Claudius afford a cleaning crew so that the court wouldn't have to walk over piles of debris in Act II?), yet, nevertheless, proving that the Bard still has what it takes to pack in audiences after 400 years, and is relatively invulnerable to stupid stage gimmicks, as well.

Acting was good, overall, even if sets and costumes sometimes distracted from the action and character. Ophelia could have looked a little more innocent for my taste, and the 1930s Cabinet War Rooms seemed to conflict with the palatial surroundings as well as the contemporary jeans and jacket look--not to mention it being strange to seeing outdoors played inside the palace--but the strangeness was in keeping with the madness at the center of the whole story. Hamlet as PTSD-suffering Rock Star.

Best line of the night, IMHO, one which triggered my own PTSD-like flashbacks to the CNN 2016 Democratic Presidential  Election Debate a few nights earlier, was Hamlet's description of his mother Queen Gertrude, a powerful woman in high office, as well as wife to his father's usurper and murderer:

O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
My tables—meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 105–109

It was worth the price of admission just to hear Cumberbatch declaim such verse, complete condemnation penned at another time, yet words which still echo today.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has Got To Go!" at the Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center Deborah Rutter speaks to donors at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater last week.
When Jesse Jackson led a chanting mob of students determined to end the Western Civ requirement in 1988 at Stanford University--which Stanford subsequently abolished--many otherwise reasonable Americans mistakenly thought such lunacy might be limited to prestigious American universities, therefore not affect them, once they were off-campus and out of range of those Roger Kimball dubbed "Tenured Radicals".

They could be forgiven for believing that their cultural betters were committed to defending civilization. For example, the Kennedy Center in Washington features inspirational quotes from JFK himself, carved in stone on the River Terrace, such as:

There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci, the age of Elizabeth also the age of Shakespeare, and the new frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a new frontier for American art. 

However, a recent donor presentation by Deborah Rutter, new president of the Kennedy Center, suggests that Sixties-generation style cultural vandalism did not stop at the university faculty lounge, rather has metastasized into the dominant paradigm at the leading performing arts institution in the Capital. Rutter is one of the most successful arts administrators in the country, having served as president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Symphony. Yet there was little great music heard from the stage of the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater at the presentation this writer (and donor) attended.

For example, while listing conventional concert fare, plugging so-called "thought leaders" like David Brooks and Bill Irwin, ballet troupes and an upcoming Irish festival, as well as lauding contemporary composers and Wagner operas in passing, Rutter's talk highlighted a temporary Skateboard park constructed at the cultural complex, entitled "Finding a Line," sponsored by the Converse sneaker company.

From her PowerPoint, it looked much like what anyone might see (or try to avoid) any day of the week in playgrounds, plazas, parks and parking lots across America--not Phidias, not Leonardo, and certainly not Shakespeare. Not JFK, either, to judge from another carved inscription on the walls:

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

It seemed that rather than raising standards and commanding respect for American civilization, the main takeaway from the first hour (this reporter had to leave before President Rutter could explain an  ugly multi-million dollar expansion project) was that dystopian and dispiriting imperatives for "access" and "equity" have replaced any commitment to artistic excellence, creativity or inspiration.

To illustrate this  bureaucratic decline and fall of civilization, President Rutter apparently contacted out a portion of her talk to Mario Rossero, the complex's "Education" VP, formerly Chicago Public Schools Chief of Core Curriculum.

While Rossero's "Super-Mario" cartoons and folksy demeanor might work at a National Education Association convention, they were a slap in the face to anyone seeking uplift through the arts. What can one say about his PowerPoint slides? Amazingly, he showed complete contempt for the English language, by redefining "Quality," like Alice's Red Queen, to mean whatever he wanted it to mean. 

Rossero announced, without citing a single source, that "Quality" meant "Access + Equity." This was very surprising to at least this correspondent, who had done his Ph.D. dissertation on "Quality," yet never run across that formula anywhere. 

Needless to say, Rossero's definition doesn't sound much like John F. Kennedy. 

Likewise, it does not match the that in any English-language dictionary with which I am acquainted. To cite just one example, the online Oxford Dictionaries defines "Quality" as: 

NOUN (plural qualities)

The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind;

The degree of excellence of something: an improvement in product quality; the hospital ranks in the top tier in quality of care;

General excellence of standard or level: a masterpiece for connoisseurs of quality;

[AS MODIFIER] a wide choice of quality beers...(etc.)

There were also some very sad-looking photos of National Symphony Orchestra musicians in nightclubs and high school auditoria. When I was growing up in New York City, students went to Philharmonic Hall to hear Leonard Bernstein conduct in the inspiring surroundings of Lincoln Center. 

Somehow, in the presentation, it appeared that things were moving backwards. Why go to a shabby high school auditorium...couldn't students come to the Kennedy Center instead? There's a free shuttle bus to the Metro at Foggy Bottom. 

Perhaps Mr. Rossero had been sampling some quality craft beers while putting his talk together, but in any case. the chief educational officer of the nation's foremost cultural institution demonstrated to an audience of donors that he literally did not know the meaning of the word "Quality."

This defective definition, which would earn an "F" in any respectable English class, was presented as the basis of the Kennedy Center's educational "outreach" to schools and the community. A sad day for "Quality," and a sad day for the Kennedy Center.

Apparently, Kennedy Center donors like the Carlyle Group's David M. Rubinstein, who gave $50 million towards Rutter's $125 million expansion project, aren't embarrassed that their money goes to parade ignorance, perhaps illiteracy, among their beneficiaries.

If one truly wants to promote "Quality," skateboards and "petting zoos" won't do the trick.  For President Kennedy's vision to be fulfilled, the Kennedy Center must return to its original mandate to raise standards of artistic accomplishment in order to restore an America which commands respect around the world for its civilization.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sir Vidia's Pale Shadow: Paul Theroux in the Deep South

Paul Theroux speaking at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC on September 30th.
Last Wednesday Paul Theroux came to Washington, DC  to sell his new book, Deep South, but ended up talking about his relationship with Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul during a question-and-answer session at Politics and Prose bookstore.

For Sir Vidia S. Naipaul had published his own memoir of a tour of America's Southern states in 1989. A Turn in the South documented his road trip to Atlanta, Charleston, Tallahassee, Tuskeegee, Nashville, Chapel Hill as well as a visit to Eudora Welty and the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi. At the time,  Historian C. Vann Woodward reviewed Naipaul's Southern travelogue favorably in The New York Times.

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Theroux's book is an homage to his one-time mentor. "One-time" because in 1998, Paul Theroux wrote Sir Vidia's Shadow,  which portrayed his putative friend as a monstrous racist who called Arabs and Africans derogatory names. Theroux was quoted in a British newspaper condemning him as a tyrant: "I mainly saw his sadness, his tantrums, his envy, his meanness, his greed and his uncontrollable anger." The Daily Mail added this stinger in 2009: "He got his millions, a knighthood and the Nobel Prize, but the karmic twist is that no one gives a toss about his books."

Apparently, however, Theroux himself gave a toss.

His memoir was so bitter that the New York Times review concluded: "What we have here is a man who claims to be recalling a friendship when obviously he's seeking revenge." In the intervening decade and a half, Naipaul and Theroux managed to patch up their literary feud, culminating in a public ceremony of reconciliation at the Jaipur Literary Festival this past January, where Theroux embraced a weeping Naipaul, now confined to a wheelchair due to Parkinson's Disease.  

When I had heard Naipaul speak at Sixth & I Synagogue a while back, he appeared as an ex-Colonial who had bettered his betters--a civilized, witty, and curmudgeonly  man-of-the-world. He spoke the Queen's English with Churchillian clarity. Naipaul was blunt, outspoken, cantankerous, and provocative--taking on Political Correctness and Islamic Fundamentalism in defense of Western Civilization. A bit ridiculously Victorian, but delightful in his eccentricity.

On the other hand, when not dissenting from Naipaul, Theroux appeared as a Filene's Basement version of Henry James.  But, instead of offering insights into the human condition wrapped under dense prose, he uttered unremarkable platitudes designed to flatter the liberal sensibility of the NPR crowd. 

He had never been to the South before writing this book, he said, although he had traveled all over the world. But he had wanted to support the Civil Rights Movement, which is why he went to Africa with the Peace Corps. He said he was sorry that he had lost touch with a Medford High School friend who had gone to work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. So now, some 50 years after Selma, the latter-day Freedom Rider decided to visit small towns in the South to document the suffering of African-Americans in places like Allendale, South Carolina. Some of his concerns were still more dated, such as his interest in the case of Emmett Till. It was as if Theroux's world view had been frozen, Rip van Winkle-like, in the 1960s...

And, "surprise, surprise" as Gomer Pyle used to say, Theroux discovered the natives were friendly. He was invited to share meals, to a Black church, and a Rosenwald School,  as well as gun shows...where the natives were even friendlier, he noticed, because everyone was armed.

Theroux likewise observed that roads were good, he go anywhere, could drive in circles if he liked, that his car was like a magic carpet that would take him anywhere he wanted to go (unlike railway journeys abroad), and he could receive NPR stations in his radio well below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Like Walker Evans, whom he claimed to admire, he had a political agenda. Theroux intended to document poverty and devastation in the wake of textile plants gone to China. He said he found it in abandoned roadside attractions and factories along US 301. His conclusion: the US needs to spend more international development money at home. Not surprisingly, the USAID and State Department staffers in the audience appreciated his comparison of South Carolina to Zimbabwe. According to Theroux Arkansas was full of racists and Christians, and the Clintons refused to help Black farmers. The crowd was standing-room-only.

Of course, to differentiate Theroux's work--which appeared to recycle Southern cliches not revised since he first heard them in 1965--the Yankee scribbler was at pains to declare his book was completely different from the earlier landmark volume by Naipaul. 

He noted that Naipaul went to big cities, while he avoided the metropolis in favor of small towns. He pointed out that Naipaul had a driver, didn't even know how to drive, but Theroux drove his own car. Naipaul didn't bother to visit Black churches, but Theroux sought them out. Etc. In other words, Theroux was better traveler than Naipaul--just as George Bernard Shaw claimed he was a better writer than Shakespeare.

Concluding that he felt "at home" in the South, the actual resident of Cape Cod and Hawaii, in his best Yankee Brahmin intonation, suggested that the Politics and Prose audience might even--gasp--want to drive to see the South for themselves. Not only was it perfectly safe, it was only a few hours away! 

Imagine that...who knew Washington was so close to Virginia? 

From Theroux's presentation, it became clear that his narrative was one of cleansing Puritan redemption--like Abolitionists of old, his claim to moral superiority would enable him to uplift the oppressed in the South who were poor, childlike, and dependent upon the kindness of strangers, especially Yankee carpetbaggers with development schemes to reconstruct the region in their own imaginations.

In the end, the complaint seemed to be that while Naipaul only saw the South that really existed, Theroux saw the South through the horn-rimmed lenses of New York's Upper West Side, Cambridge and New Haven, perhaps even the view from London, England. It was not just picturesque locale for tourism, but rather poor, backwards, and in need of guidance from the Elect, such as himself.

As Theroux's preposterous accent ebbed and flowed, as he name-dropped schoolmate Mike Bloomberg, as he derided graduates of Andover and Exeter and Groton he knew as as "dim" though "rich,"  it became clear that the power of Ivy Leaguers like Theroux is a con game, dependent upon browbeating listeners into submission using a club of moral superiority and a hammer of assumed greater intellect.

"I'm smart, and you're dumb," appeared to be his bottom line.

In assuming that public pose, Paul Theroux revealed himself to be the palest shadow of V.S. Naipaul, indeed.