Friday, April 22, 2011

Couldn't Do It

I did better than my record while at Broward Community College, in all the time I spent at Southwest Regional Library. Then, I didn't get past Moonraker. This time, I made it to Doctor No and this time, the run included Diamonds are Forever and From Russia with Love, both of which came after Moonraker.

Is it because I was reading them one after the other and perhaps got tired of their inner workings, the establishment of the missions, the woman beside Bond, the weapons, the descriptions of the food he ate, the details that Ian Fleming felt were important for us to know about the history of a place or of what Bond planned to do to defeat the villain?

I could never get tired of Fleming's food descriptions. I love descriptions of food in books, which is why, when I went on my latest shopping spree at (It happens once in a while, not always once a month, but it always goes above $30), I bought Literary Feasts (, a compilation of food scenes in various novels.

Is it because I mostly knew how Fleming tended to operate within his novels, when the villain would be revealed, when Bond would be introduced to the allies that would help him on his mission? No. I think it's because it felt like Fleming didn't care as much when writing Doctor No as he did with From Russia with Love, which preceded it. In From Russia with Love, Fleming gives 71 pages over to the murderous Soviet organization SMERSH before even re-introducing Bond. He describes the operatives, the plan that they intend to carry out (to ruin and then murder Bond and completely upend the British Secret Service), and it's more than what the feature films gave with SPECTRE. President Kennedy had excellent taste when he mentioned this as one of his favorite books.

Doctor No is a huge letdown. It has everything one can expect from the Bond novels by that point, but it's written without the same attention or the same intensity to make you be completely absorbed in Bond's mission. I was disappointed when Donovan "Red" Grant (You may remember him when Robert Shaw played him in the film version of From Russia with Love), doesn't appear until nearly the end of From Russia with Love, because he's described so vividly in physical form and in personality that it feels like he should have more to do besides just basically lie in wait for the moment to kill Bond on the Orient Express.

The same disappointment is there in Doctor No, because Doctor Julius No comes into the novel fairly late, and isn't much of an interesting figure. This is who Bond will battle? It's not much of a battle towards the end anyway, and it's no wonder the script for Dr. No changed that drastically.

Now, it could be that I need a break, but I'm not ready to continue, or even certain that I'd want to continue. The James Bond movies are my Star Wars, and I had hoped that the same would stand for the books. Not to own them (since I haven't come upon any I'd want to have in my collection), but to know them as intimately as I do the films. If I got bored with the next set of titles, I could always close them and return them, but at this point, so close to when the County of Los Angeles is going to hand over control of the Santa Clarita libraries to the City of Santa Clarita and cut off access to their hundreds of thousands of titles (and leaving me stranded in so many ways in my research for the books I'm working on), I can't afford to waste slots like that.

So maybe not now. Maybe not later this year. Maybe next year, or the year after that. The feeling may come again. But I'm not going to force myself back into it. That's not the right way to read anything.

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