Good for the soul

In Malcolm Bradbury's 1959 novel, Eating People is Wrong, the "frail, white-haired" Mrs. Bishop explains a unique feature of her church:
The church she attended made a practice of public confession, so that, as Mrs. Bishop explained, you not only had the pleasure of doing the sin, but the second, more sophisticated, pleasure of talking about it afterwards. As the weeks went on, the confessions got more lurid; competition grew up as to who could commit adultery the most times in one week. "Thirteen times," said Mrs. Bishop one week. "You wouldn't think anybody had it in them, would you?"


I know, I know, whenever you think of John Ehrlichman you remember him primarily as Nixon's frowny White House Counsel in 1970, but he also had an interesting encounter with J. Edgar Hoover around that time. Hoover had been director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for decades, and he took full advantage of the fact that he lived in the pre-cubicle era of workplace design.
Ehrlichman approached the director with caution. His staff had warned him "that every meeting in Hoover's office was secretly filmed or videotaped. But they did not prepare me for the Wizard of Oz approach that his visitors were required to make." From the corridors of Justice, Ehrlichman was ushered through double doors guarded by Hoover's personal attendants. He walked into a room crammed with tributes to Hoover -- plaques and citations emblazoned with emblems of American eagles and eternally flaming torches. The anteroom led to a second, more formal room, with hundreds more awards. That led to a third trophy room with a highly polished desk. The desk was empty.

"J. Edgar Hoover was nowhere to be seen," he wrote. "My guide opened a door behind the desk, at the back of the room, and I was ushered into an office about twelve or thirteen feet square, dominated by Hoover himself; he was seated in a large leather desk chair behind a wooden desk in the center of the room. When he stood, it became obvious that he and his desk were on a dais about six inches high. I was invited to sit on a low, purplish leather couch to his right. J. Edgar Hoover looked down on me and began to talk."
From the engrossing new book Enemies - A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner.