Thu Nov 15, 2007
As I have a scholarly interest in Le Carre, I’ve noticed over the years that Clive James’s opinion of his writing, delivered in the New York Review, has been unduly influential. James suggested that his early work was superior to the later because of increasing bloat. Here’s a related example from his review of The Honorable Schoolboy: “To start with, the prose style is overblown. Incompatible metaphors fight for living space in the same sentence. “Now at first Smiley tested the water with Sam—and Sam, who liked a poker hand himself, tested the water with Smiley.” Are they playing cards in the bath? Such would-be taciturnity is just garrulousness run short of breath.”
What in fact is happening here is free indirect intrusion into Sam’s gambling-laden mind, not a mixed-metaphor, as should be apparent to all but the least charitable of readers.