Spies Like… Them

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson

Two confessions:

Confession #1: I read the last part of this book first! I never do this. But here’s the situation: The Afterword (by Laura Rozen) provides some necessary context for Wilson’s story, because Wilson herself was prevented from sharing some key details about her experiences in the CIA. More about this later… after I reveal…

Confession #2: I got the idea to check out this book when I heard the Decemberists’ song “Valerie Plame” a couple of times on The World Café. First, let me declare that I feel bad for Ms. Wilson: she had built a career, and it was destroyed due to some nasty political wrangling that had little to do with her personally. That’s rotten. And I also feel kind of bad that I like the song, which seems to make light of her plight. (How about that rhyming there?) But here’s the thing: the song led me to the book, where she relates her own version of events, and I’m glad I read it. The prose is not stellar (neither is it flawed), but the story—yikes, what a story—carries a reader right along.

Here’s the reason to read the Afterword first: One tantalizing, frustrating, fascinating element of the book is that Wilson has left the blacked-out text in place—so the reader can see the sections (sometimes a word or two, sometimes two consecutive pages) that were disapproved for publication by the CIA. There are some surprising gaps in her story, which I imagine would have appeared in the blacked-out sections. And some of the gaps appear to be fairly innocuous information, based on their context—but truly, what do I know?

The true oddness of my reading these books about espionage is that I am truly chickenhearted and would pass out cold if I were in any situation that was even remotely as treacherous as the ones encountered by CIA case workers.

By the book’s end, I was even more fully on Wilson’s side in this whole debacle. She, her husband, and their children had moved to New Mexico by the time the book closes, and I have this sad vision of these two active, involved former Washingtonians in exile, slowly going stir crazy in the beautiful desert. Here’s hoping I’m completely wrong and that they’re living their dreams in the Southwest.