When I was seventeen, just out of high school and still in deep grief for my best friend, dead from riding shotgun while a careless fellow drove, I picked up Feodor Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment. For the next several days, I rarely ate, only slept a little and went to my job in a restaurant then came home and retired to my bedroom and read. If my mother tried to lure me out, I chased her away. And by the time I finished the book, I knew what Franz Kafka meant by the line, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”
It’s been a while since I experienced anything similar, and by now my intensity has been tempered. But today, as I finished John Le Carre’s Little Drummer Girl, I know that not only have I changed, but the world I perceive has become an entirely different place.
The book concerns espionage of sorts, Arab, Israeli, British and German terrorists and patriots, and a lost young woman deeply in love. The first half, I found slow, but perhaps that says more about my patience than about the book. No matter, at the end I consider it a masterpiece.