Friday, February 16, 2007

It is not

that I have any ambition to write, say, a huge family-saga type novel (of the early Susan Howatch style) or anything like that, I certainly don't, but the researcher-novelist brain tells me that David Landes's new book Dynasties: Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World's Great Family Businesses (nicely reviewed at the FT by John Kay) would be an interesting and useful thing to read.

(On a related note, it's not online but James B. Stewart has an interesting piece on the Hewlett-Packard surveillance scandal at the New Yorker; and on a wholly unrelated note, you can read online in this week's issue of the magazine a quite delightful Susan Orlean piece on origami.)

It is not quite sufficient explanation for the fact that I spent two and a half years fairly doggedly learning Russian, I was always in love with the idea of Russia in any case, but then & now when someone asks me why I did it I have only one answer, which is that I thought it would be helpful for writing spy novels. After I visited Moscow in the summer of 2000 I really did want to write a novel set there, it was a photograph I saw in the KGB museum that put the idea in my head--a quite extraordinary picture from the late 70s of the American spy Martha Peterson getting arrested, I don't think the picture's online but here's a Time Magazine story about her--I went as far as checking a lot of books out of the library but doing the research was going to be very trying without a good command of Russian, and the moment passed in any case...

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