How much surprise comes out of a thin little book! I’ve had this hardback copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale on my shelf for a number of years. To be honest, it was from a batch of old books I purchased mainly for having a variety of old books to fill a book case.
Published in 1953, and emanating that musty smell of old books, it weighs in at a puny 187 pages. Needing something new to read, I thought, why not? I’ve been a fan of the Bond movie enterprise since I was a kid (Jim Groom will mock me, but I am a die hard Sean Connery Bond type).
At one time I had a James Bond toy briefcase (that shot darts out of the side). And I still have a toy Aston Martin that even has a button you can use to eject a plastic bad guy from the passenger seat:
I have Bond vinyl!
The heck with Connery vs Moore as best Bond– who cares when Shirley Bassey sings the theme song? pic.twitter.com/s7vjEylGTf
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) August 25, 2015
Among the Bond flicks I remember watching early were Dr No, The Man With the Golden Gun, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice.
Perhaps that’s why I never picked up the book.
It’s only after finishing it this morning that I found out that it was the very first Bond novel; and published in 1953 its no wonder there are so many post WWII / Cold War vibe to it.
And it’s so unlike the flash of the movies I remember. There’s no secret agent gimmick devices. There’s no dramatic opening scene or car chases. In fact, Bond is not all that smashing a figure. He’s almost a rookie 00 agent, admitting having killed but 2 bad guys to get his perch, and neither told with bravado. In the novel, he only gets out of jams (the bomb explosion, the capture by Le Chiffre, the last hand come back at the card table) with the assistance of others (René Mathis, Felix Leiter, heck even the bad guy from SMERSH). The only real action movie he does is the falling back on his chair in the casino to escape the bad guy with the hidden gun at his back.
Because in the book you get some insight to his mood, he seems moody, a lot less confident, doubtful of his role, and then he falls over in puppy love with Vesper Lynd.
Speaking of which, early in the book Bind orders his drink, which I noticed is done not like the movies at all, a lot more specific than “shaken not stirred”
Ian Fleming's Bond says quite a bit more than "shaken not stirred" pic.twitter.com/T4ChugXKg5
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) June 30, 2016
And that smart dude Jon Fulton recognized the drink name
that's the Vesper.
— Jon Fulton (@jozbfz) July 1, 2016
Darned if he was not right!
damn you know your Bond. 8 pages later… pic.twitter.com/w6qzfM6DCW
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) July 2, 2016
That all said, Fleming packs a lot in with his writing, and it’s done deftly in those 187 pages. The way reading books launches me on curiosity tangents go me thinking how much potentiality is packed into the written word. The magic happens not from what is in the content, but what it generates in the reader, when they are engaged in the book.
I was doing some more looking around for Bond info, and was intrigued to note a Bond Wiki, hosted on the fan wiki site, Wikia, which has been around for quite a few web years. I went to look at the entry for the Casino Royale book. While havgin a decent article (thinner than Wikipedia), I was totally dismayed by the gint plopping at the top of the page, shoving my content down the fold, a crap load of completelt irrelevant “sponsored links” from Taboola.
leading me to pontificate
Nothing makes a web site look cheaper and shlockier than a raft of video ads by Taboola. #smellsLikePoop
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) July 4, 2016
I am getting suspect of sites that use this service
I don't know poop about advertising, but dont see how boob videos add to Business Insider's credibility. pic.twitter.com/H60fgHLbW6
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) July 1, 2016
But here I wander off track of my Bond love for my hatred of Crap on the web. Because, if you make some effort, and get yourself out of the Big Blue Box Where Everyone Is (I have Facebookistan cued up), the internet is a machine of wonders.
This happened a few times with Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman; see my travels From Wonder Woman to the Bayeux Tapestry: Hypertext Without Hyperlinks and HyperNoting from Books; Prairie Dogging The Rabbit Holes.
I am contrasting it with some recent television watching experience. I choose not to have any cable television, and I receive no transmission signal where I live. But I got a new DVD player that connects to the network, so I am starting to dive into what I can watch on my screen from YouTube amd Amazon Prime (I am NetFlix-less).
Because I read the book sometime in the last two years, I watched my first episode of The Man in the High Castle. It was as expected, visually full, and set up of the character drama. We close with an unexpected twist.
But I am left in having invested an hour of my time, how little plot was covered in that span, especially compared to an hour of reading. I suspect that it’s part of the design of these series productions, to stretch things out, for years.
Yet I am left a bit wanting, almost dulled. For film, video, it seems that it must contain everything- plot, music, visuals, sounds. It leaves little for the mind to do, and often, yes, that is what we seek, to escape to every day world (I too can enjoy empty action smashups or goofy comedies).
But after reading Fleming’s thin little book, I’m excited to recognize this craft of writing that generates much more in me as a reader that is not in the book. I have to do the work to create the scenes, to imagine the sounds, and the action.
This is not the first time; another book bought for the same reason in that photo above was The Sands of the Kalahari, and I had a similar experience 5 years ago in deciding to read that book.
Uh oh, I am sounding like one of those elite “books are better” snobs.
But frankly, they are.
And so I find myself more interested in those thin books than those thick TV series.
Bartender? I’ll have a vesper. Do I need to tell you how to make it? Use a grain-based, not potato-based, vodka.
Top / Featured Image: flickr photo by me! https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/27988869972 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license