Bond doesn't have much character. Rather, he has mannerisms. Those fine clothes (many of them brand names), the martinis, the 60-a-day cigarette habit - they are all mentioned by Kingsley Amis in The James Bond Dossier, the first and most serious examination of Fleming's work (he also wrote the first and, for many, the only decent sequel - Colonel Sun, published in 1968 under the pen name of Robert Markham). But as Amis concludes, 'His mind is a completely utilitarian organ.' Which is to say, Bond never reads. He doesn't listen to music. He has no interest in sport - unless it's bridge or golf. He has no sense of humour, telling only one joke in all 14 books (in Goldfinger - and it isn't very funny). He seems to have no hinterland or family history - his parents, Scottish and Swiss, died in a climbing accident when he was 11. Perhaps it is for this reason that the screen Bond has managed to change so often without anything being damaged along the way. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig is quite a leap but they're both inhabiting an empty vessel.
'We don't want to have Bond for dinner or go golfing with Bond or talk to Bond. We want to be Bond,' Amis continues. In the dossier, he identifies the hero as 'an intruder from another age' - in short, the Byronic hero. 'Mr Fleming has brought off the unlikely feat of enclosing this wildly romantic, almost narcissistic and (one would have thought) hopelessly out-of-date persona inside the shell of a secret agent, and so making it plausible... and to all appearances, contemporary.'
Sunday, February 03, 2008
"The belt made her nakedness extraordinarily erotic"
At the Telegraph, Anthony Horowitz (author of the Alex Rider adventures) considers James Bond: