A Game Men Play (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
A Game Men Play is about power and its victims. Novelist Vance Bourjaily wisely avoids the labyrinth of international intrigue and focuses instead on the effects of wealth and power upon people trying to live their lives. One never learns precisely what policy issues, what diplomatic goals, the political intriguers are seeking, nor does one become more than superficially acquainted with the people who call the shots. Bourjaily seems to want to demonstrate the helplessness of victims caught, by accident of birth or association, in the opportunistic machinations of what passes for diplomacy. The book leaves no doubt that violence, even murder, are wholly acceptable to the makers and executors of foreign policy.
Specifically, A Game Men Play is about Chink Peters, who gains access to the elite “Agency” through the wealth and prestige of his Russian-born father’s patron, “Cap” Strawbridge. The youthful Chink proves so mindlessly effective in destroying whom he must that he becomes a legend—and the subject of a movie, unofficially condoned by his superiors. “Der Fleischwolf,” or the Meatgrinder, as Peters is known, has another side; he is a student of language and literature, he loves painting and animals, and as his wealthy former wife recognizes, he is too rigid in matters of ethics to endure in the world of big business.
At one point, Bourjaily recites a list of recent presidents, from Eisenhower to Nixon, with...
(The entire section is 1608 words.)
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