Friday, July 17, 2009

Things I'd Like to See This Weekend on C-SPAN's "Book TV"

10:00 am Ernest Hemingway Blofeld
The authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America talk about their contention that Ernest Hemingway served as a KGB agent during the 1940s. Recently discovered files show that Soviet recruiters were, in fact, in touch with Hemingway, who first caught their attention with his fondness for shooting things and punching people out. The KGB trained him and sent him into the field armed with various gadgets, including a special typewriter that could produce enough muscular prose to overpower an enemy agent. Hemingway once nearly killed future spy novelist Ian Fleming--not because Fleming was with a rival spy service (British Naval Intelligence) but because he was "an effete tea-sipping Limey fop." (Fleming is thought to have based James Bond's archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, on Hemingway, which would explain all the cats running around the Hemingway House in Key West.) Ultimately Hemingway's career as a spy came to an end when he ran afoul of the American intelligence community, an experience he relates in his book The Old Man and the CIA.

2:00 pm Reading with Sonia Sotomayor
The Supreme Court nominee discusses the literary characters that influenced her. In her youth, she devoured the Nancy Drew mysteries and dreamed of becoming a detective. She credits Perry Mason with inspiring her to pursue a career in law. Once she ascended to the bench, however, she focused her attention on reading material that would clarify and elucidate the role of the judiciary and the courts. In particular she cites Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury as "a guy who knows how to mete out justice in the court of no appeal," and the stories of Judge Dredd, who she describes as "a kickass jurist," especially as embodied by "that hottie" Sylvester Stallone.

11:00 am Lost in Translation
Michael Luongo, author of Gay Travels in the Muslim World--the first gay book to be translated into Arabic--discusses the controversy that resulted when Arabic translators substituted the word "Pervert" for the word "Gay" in the book's title. Subsequent developments reveal that there is some precedent for this: A quick canvass of several bookstores in the Middle East turned up copies of Enola Pervert by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts; Our Hearts Were Young and Degenerate by Cornelia Otis Skinner; and several books by Deviate Talese. [Related programming note: Later tonight C-SPAN will air the Arabic version of the Fred Astaire classic, The Debauched Divorcée.]

4:00 pm Obscure Dickens
A series profiling lesser-known Dickens characters. This week: Hieronymous Quillplucker, naïve publisher in Bleak House who believes that no book with the word 'bleak' in the title will sell.

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