Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS

Book: A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS
Author: Jennet Conant
Edition: Nook
Read: Nov 2012
377 pages
Rated: 2½  out of 5


During the war years, 1941-45, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was created under William Donovan's leadership. Donovan was a friend of Roosevelt's and highly influential. Some of the people whom he attracted was Paul Child, Julia McWilliams (Julia Child) and Jane Foster. This book is a history of these people and the departments they worked in. It continues out through the McCarthy years.

The story takes us through Europe post WW II where the Child's were on assignment with the Foreign Service through the USIS and Foster had taken up life in Paris. The book talks about the time in the OSS where they created “black” propaganda to be used against the Japanese, alone with a group of mostly women who were part of the OSS intelligence network. In the 50's Jane Foster, who has become Jane Foster Zlatovski, is enmeshed in being accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union. The Child's stand behind her.


Paul Child really was more interested in Jane Foster, but realized she would not be someone he could live with. As it turned out, she was already secretly married, but at first it seemed more of a marriage of convince than of love. As Child got to know McWilliams, he felt more of a brotherly love, than a desire for her. It was she who desired him. Child took her on more as a project than as a companion. From my view, Paul Child used Julia McWilliams like a girl uses a doll. She was there to be dressed up, not as a person to be explored. His initial relationship seemed so much callous. But McWilliams was devoted to him and her love eventually was returned. How did this relationship evolve like this? Obviously, in the long run,  the relationship was real.

The nature of war is no holds barred. One of the tools developed is the art of misinformation. Both Foster and McWilliams (Child) were involved in this. The question which formed is do we value truth when we purposely spread lies? Could a Christian be considered for this job? If not, how does a Christians support this? Even now, we have misinformation. When you read between the lines in this war on terror, we do not know what is correct and what are lies.

While the book's title suggests that the OSS is the main emphasis of this book, it is the prelude to the effects of McCarthyism. The people Conant follows went through South East Asia OSS' misinformation regime. As McCarthy grew in power, the accusations was this group worked with the communists to bring them into power in China, Vietnam and other places. From this group, the suspicions centered on Jane Foster. Others who were her friends fell under suspicion because of their association. This included Paul Child. You realize from Conant's writing, and she does this well, how being associated with suspicion, even though not associated with the wrong, affects the person. The self-doubt, the anger. How some people will rise to occasion and some fall short of their standards. Or as Charles Chaput commenting on Leon Bloy,We have that freedom. This is why suffering breaks some people, while it breaks open others into something more than their old selves, stretching the soul to greatness.

While everyone, well most everyone, thinks that McCarthy went well over the top in his chasing down communists and suspected communists, there is the aspect that a person who may have or probably did commit espionage has friends and accomplices. How do you root out the problem without damaging the unsuspecting or those aiding? Is mere association reason to potentially destroy a life? In this case, there was a high degree of suspicion about Jane Foster actively passing on secrets. But where does the suspicions stop? In this case Paul Child was able to show that even though he was a friend of Jane Foster, he did not know of her other connections. But in our world of terrorism and those within the US possibly planning terrorist activities, how do you identify those who have that connection? No easy answers from my point of view. Is it better to hurt a few to save a lot?

I suspect that Jennet Conant had material left over from her previous books about the Irregulars and William Donovan. She found an interesting character, Jane Foster, but few people would pick up a book on Foster. But you put Julia Child's name on the cover and people are interested, particularly if it involves spies. So the book was written with some Julia Child material, but telling the Jane Foster story.

As a history, the book relates the story line of the OSS and people Jane Foster embroiled in the turmoil surrounding McCarthyism. But if you are looking for more background on Julia Child, you will be disappointed. The story revolves around Jane Foster with Julia Child being the big draw for readers. And that is the crux of the problem. The title of the book is not true, making you concerned with the rest of the book. The book is about Jane Foster, the Child's are supporting characters to the main story. The Jane Foster story is compelling, but you keep on thinking there will be more of Julia Child—there is not, just enough to keep you going.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: It started with the arrival of a telegram.
  • Last Line: Unfortunately, her [Jane Foster] flawed and incomplete account raises more question than it answers


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Donal Grant

Author: George MacDonald
Edition: Bethany House Publishers, published as The Shepherd's Castle
Read: November 2012
Rated: 4 out of 5

This  is the sequel to MacDonald's book, Sir Gibbie. It takes Gibbie's friend Donald Grant and follows him as he learns to find a place in the world. He becomes a tutor to the son of an Earl. The earl's niece takes notice of this special person as they solve the mystery of the castle's lost room.

But if you read this book as a mystery or love story, you will be disappointed. It is much more MacDonald's lessons to his readers about living a godly life when you are surrounded by evil. Making choices and following God with a sense of holiness.

The version I read has some modernizations to it, including toning town some of the Scottish.

MacDonald talks about what life with God is like. This starts off within the first few pages where he hits pretty close to home with books. Donal Grant has set off to find himself a position as a tutor. He hopes to find one which has a good library because he knew his own inclination to accumulate and hoard (12). Towards the end of the book, Grant inherits the castle where he stays, but he gives it away so that he would not be encumbered. But he is wise in his giving it away as he chooses a man who will see to it that it gets put up right.

Even more than about possessions is the example of right conduct which Grant sets. From the start as a tutor to the Earl's younger son, Grant shows that you do return good for evil. Such as when the older son punches Grant, Grant does not fight but forgives. When asked to explain, he says that his master says do not return evil for evil. (47)

MacDonald puts words into Lady Arcuta's mouth when she is talking with the older son. The son is trying to court Lady Arcuta by becoming her tutor. She responds that he has no love for mathematics or Greek and only those who have that love can teach (222). If there is no drive to learn in yourself, how can you instill that desire in someone else? That can extend out to other things, if you do not have the desire to do good, then the task you do will fall short.

  What makes this book good is not MacDonald's flair for writing, but his underlying understanding what what it takes to live a Christian life. He is able to bring this life alive through his characters. Modern readers might take issue that Grant and Lady Arcuta are too good to be true, but that could also be said of those rare people like Mother Teresa and a host of currently unknown people who serve God wholeheartedly.

New Words:

•    physiology (95)-the branch of science concerned with the functioning of organisms; the processes and functions of all or part of an organism
•    arcuta-

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: It was a lovely morning in the first of summer.
  • Last Line: It seems to say to those who can redit it, “I know in whom I believe... and all is well.”
  • ….I do not think she had ever in her life been in love with anybody but herself. She was a good theologian—so good that when she was near, you could not get within sight of God... (58)
  • Obedience is the road to all things. It is the only way to grow able to trust him. (62)
  • The gospel is given to convince, not our understandings, but our hearts; that done, and never till then, our understandings will be free (97)
  • when one is miserable, misery seems the law of being; and in the midst of it dwells some thought which nothing can ever set right! (127)
  • The right and the power to use it [a possession] to its true purpose, and the using it so, are the conditions that make a thing ours. (129)
  • For to honour, love, and be just to our neighbour, is religion; and he who does these things will soon find that he cannot live without the higher part of religion, the love of God. (169)
  • Everyone is born nearer to God than to any ancestor, and it rests with him to cultivate either the godness or the selfness in him, his original or his mere ancestral nature. (180)
  • It is only righteousness that has a right to secrecy, and does not want it; evil has no right to secrecy. (206)
  • Self is is the most cursed friend a man can have. (230)
  • God cannot help men with wisdom when their minds are in too great a tumult to hear what he says! (242)
  • The sepulchre is the only resurrection-house! (260)