On Espionage, and other Notes

I

Espionage catches part of the essence of reading. Readership is an exercise in the dark arts of diplomacy: on the one hand, the controlling hand of the author; and on the other the reader as undercover agent, sabateour, loose cannon. Reading is in some sense an incursion into a territory representing the interests of the writer. Crucially, this is a space in which we, the readers, can bring some imaginative influence to bear.

II

Control of the passes was, he saw, the key
To this new district, but who would get it?
He, the trained spy, had walked into the trap
For a bogus guide, seduced by the old tricks.

III

The reader as amateur cryptographer, intercepting rogue signals; the pages of the book strung with telephone lines, and in the air the ancient chatter of the telegraph, the blink of morse at sea, the underground flicker of data sped through wires, silently.

IV

There is also secrecy: the loneliness of the author is entirely commensurate to the silence of the reader.

V

The street is grey in the twilight. You are alone but for the wind in the elms.

A curtain twitches.

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