Mayor Bloomberg Is Really Into John le Carré

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The anxiety of influence.
The anxiety of influence. Photo: Brad Barket

Mayor Bloomberg is either being paid to buzz market for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (now playing in a theater near you), or he's a really big fan of John le Carré.  Speaking to a group of eleventh graders in the Bronx, he not only recommended that novel, but another le Carré book with "a touch of excitement in his voice," reports the Times' Michael Grynbaum. "It’s 600 pages, it’s mostly description, there is almost nothing that happens. But it’s fascinating!” he told the class, in addition to noting, "I like spy stuff." (Wonder what he thought of this yarn, then?)

Bloomberg's love for le Carré is especially noteworthy because, with the notable exception of Johnny Tremain, a children's book from the 1940s, he's not a fiction guy. Or maybe not much of a book guy at all. (To be fair: He's not a movie guy either, once claiming that he'd only seen ten movies in his life — now up to at least eleven after the film adaptation of TTSS.)

Indulging in a tale of make-believe is rare for a time-is-money workaholic whose regular literary diet consists of periodicals (The Economist, The Financial Times, Aviation Week), political histories (“The Power Broker,” by Robert A. Caro), and entrepreneurial bibles (he has been known to hand out “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” by the Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, to friends and colleagues). [...]

Joyce Purnick, Mr. Bloomberg’s biographer, recalled once sitting with the mayor in Gracie Mansion near a shelf filled with New York City books.

“I asked him if he had read them, and he gave me a dismissive ‘Are you kidding?’ look,” Ms. Purnick, a former reporter and editor for The New York Times, recalled in an e-mail.

Possibly just because they can — and so why the hell not? — the Times asked famous reader Harold Bloom for comment on the mayor's taste in fiction. "Is that as advanced as our great mayor’s taste gets, eh?” Bloom said, though he admitted to only a "passing familiarity" with le Carré. "Maybe his secret ambition is to succeed General Petraeus."  The condescension kept dripping:

Professor Bloom said he had talked about books with the mayor only once, “when I was being made some sort of a lion or another at the New York Public Library; he told me he published a book and it was about 4 million on the Amazon list.”

Is Bloom v. Bloomberg the next great literary feud?