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The Covert SphereSecrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State$
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Timothy Melley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451232

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451232.001.0001

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False Documents

False Documents

(p.110) 3 False Documents
The Covert Sphere

Timothy Melley

Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses the fiction-making capacity of covert institutions and its relationship to the postmodern revaluation of fiction. Major novels of espionage repeatedly stress the parallels between fiction writing and spycraft. The Cold War CIA relied implicitly on such parallels when it shifted emphasis from intelligence gathering to covert operations, which are often strategic fictions that place the state into a new and contemptuous relation to the public sphere. This shift is a major subject of Denis Johnson's novel of psychological operations, Tree of Smoke (2007). Johnson's novel depicts the public and military confusion during Vietnam in order to comment on the Bush administration's War on Terror. By doing so, Johnson reveals how the entire Western canon of Vietnam literature develops from public incomprehension rooted in the war's secret origins.

Keywords:   espionage novels, fiction writing, spycraft, Cold War CIA, Tree of Smoke, Vietnam War, War on Terror, Vietnam literature

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