Reading Bond: Introduction
Why do I like the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming? After giving it considerable thought, I’ve hit on three elements of the series that I especially find appealing. They are: the villains, the descriptions, and the general flavor of the period.
Bond, though not a superhero, depends on his villains. Bond is intentionally a “boring” character, though he does become a stronger personality as the stories progress. But he is nothing compared to the colorful assortment of enemies he has to put down.
Each one is, in my opinion, far more interesting than Bond himself. Mind you, I am pro villain. I played Cobra not G.I. Joe. So, my interests lie with the villain, not the hero.
Personally, I find Bond to be insufferable sometimes. He is the paragon of fifties conservatism (if not somewhat more reactionary). He is misogynistic, racist, homophobic, jinogistic, etc. Sometimes, I wonder if I only read Bond because I’m rooting for his villains.
Damn stupid luck that the bastard always wins.
Fleming’s strength as a writer lies not only in his pacing and plot structure but in his descriptions as well. They’re not flowery or long winded. Rather, a very workman like, no nonsense approach is taken that imparts a concrete poetry.
When I read his descriptive passages, I’m swept up in seeing what ever it is that he is describing at that moment. Those passages don’t weigh down the pace, but rather enhance it.
Flavor of the Period
If I were a historian (or literary scholar), my area of expertise would undoubtedly lie in the twentieth century. And Fleming’s Bond is intimately tied to the events going on in the mid twentieth century. Bond is about loss of power and finding new avenues of expressing power. And Bond is about the nostalgia for empire and about the fantasies of relevance.
Fleming was a reporter as well as spy. His power to draw upon those experiences enhances the novel’s world building. While Bond represents a particular flavor of worldview, it is one that is especially interesting for writers in similar genres.
To conclude, I have a fraught relationship with the Bond novels. Though it has often been said that men want to be Bond and women want to sleep with him, I neither want to be him or sleep with him (for that matter). What I am interested in are his villains and the window the novels open on a bygone era.
Look forward to the next installment of Reading Bond. Le Chiffre stars in “The Amateur Cypher!”