MY LIFE IN CIA: A Chronicle of 1973

Harry Mathews, Author . Dalkey Archive $13.95 (203p) ISBN 978-1-56478-392-9

Leading a life of letters and leisure in Paris in the late 1960s and early '70s, Mathews (Cigarettes ; The Human Country ; etc.) wanted to "play a part in the grand conspiracy of poetic subversion," but people mistook him for "an ordinary, paid conspirator." Idle rumors grew a life of their own for this American ex-pat writer: people thought he was CIA, and when his denials fell on deaf ears, he decided to embrace the role, a story he embellishes in this staccato autobiographical novel peppered with literary, artistic and political references. Playing spy "seemed more promising than moping at home in front of my mirror wondering how fast I was losing my hair," the 41-year-old Mathews muses as he faces middle age in 1973. So he invents a fake travel agency for cover and bones up on the language of the spy trade with the help of his friend Patrick, who does corporate intelligence work. Mathews's shaggy dog tale turns risky when agents begin approaching him for real intelligence, "Patrick" turns out to be a false identity and Mathews goes on the run. Real people—his former and current wife, his agent—share page space with possibly fictitious events—a lecture Mathews gives to dyslexic travelers with departure anxiety—in this lively bit of novelistic truth telling and biographical embellishment. Agent, Maxine Groffsky. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/18/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
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