Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A THOUGHT ON SPY FICTION (and thriller heroes generally)

The spy's ultimate task is to extricate himself from the web of plot his author has woven around him. A spy is a fictional character trying to become free. Free, that is, of the fiction that is his raison d'etre. His duty is to resolve the plot so he can walk as freely as at the beginning, before the first strands of the web reached out for him--before page one, in fact. The freedom he seeks and finds is the void before birth. (Every successful spy dies a suicide.) There is thus a fundamental circularity to spy fiction (which constitutes its structural similarity to detective fiction): the story returns us to the place where it began, but darkens it.

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