Monday, July 23, 2012

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming (1953)

It was this book that made me want to start this blog again. And it seemed like a fitting first post, combining two of my passions: James Bond and literature. I've always been into Bond films, but the books are a new to me. Something I really want to read, so I can more intellectually and adequately talk about the movies.

Casino Royale is the introduction of James Bond. Although I am interested in discovering more of the textual history of this and Ian Fleming's other Bond works, I know little about how the characters and plots came to exists. What I do know is that Fleming supposedly based the series off of his wartime naval adventures and people/spies he worked with at that time.

Of the many accolades regarding the new/current big-screen Bond, Daniel Craig, one of the biggest arguments I hear in his favor is that he is a "more human" Bond. I don't know about that cinematically, I do feel that the Bond written by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale is more human than any of the film portrayals. Because the films are presented in the third person the viewer is immediately less connected to the character of Bond (not that his womanizing, sexism, racism, and lifestyle don't do that on their own). I'm sure some kind of deeper depiction of Bond could have been considered, but for the first 20 movies, it wasn't. The medium of the book, however, allows the reader to know what the character is thinking through the omniscient narrator's descriptions. It's an extremely effective method without creating what would be an off-putting first-person story.

I've flagged some of the passages that struck me as particularly humanizing, or indicative of Bond's character, or that simply showcased brilliant and enticing writing on Fleming's part. In the films we see Bond's actions as a manifestation of his thoughts on women and work, but here we actually find what's driving those actions. It's fascinating. In some instances, he thinks everything as we would expect--and actually more so--while in others, we find the iconically confident, strong character has doubts we would never have imagined. Reading Bond gives us the opportunity to experience his character in a more emotional and contextual way, from knowing his exact thoughts to gleaning them from the words of the surrounding text.

Unfortunately, I did not track page numbers when I saved these quotes--the English student in me is furious. There will be more of these, I'm sure, as I look back through my saved notes from the last two years.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Making the Most of It

The morning after I started revamping the design of When English Majors Graduate, a coworker proposed a very interesting concept to me.

At this point in our lives, we are able to read roughly one book a month. That's 12 books a year until we die. If we're blessed with a long life, that's a fairly decent number of books. Yet, the number of books a booklover yearns to read grows exponentially year after year, while the number of readable books is still pretty finite. 

I'm banking my eyesight and mental capacity last until I'm 80. Do the math, and that means, starting this month (I'm barely 26), I have 54 years left to read. That's 648 books. Sure, that's a lot. But it's only 648 books. Now, I've never really been one to turn down a book. I've certainly read some stuff I never wanted to read. But, realizing that my list has a definite end--and, God willing, I ever get married or have children, I forsee a lot of noveless months--I should definitely be more selective. Or at very least, more strategic with the pecking order.

Now when someone suggests a book, my brilliant coworker explains his theory and asks if the book should be in his 500. I'm not sure I'm ready to cap suggestions just yet, but I think it's high time I got serious about literature again.


This blog started in the summer of 2009, right after I graduated with a BA in English. A peer of mine, Kristin, and I missed having classes and discussing books. By our senior year, we learned the benefit to critical thinking when reading. In fact, we found it almost impossible not to read like an academic. So rather than schedule our own syllabus and class times, we setup shop on the newfangled blogdom and gave ourselves a place to share.

Since then, Kristin went back to school for a Masters in Education. She's now a full-time high school teacher (English, journalism, writing--hooray!) and coach. I tried to get a Masters in English (Victorian Literature), but I left school to pursue a job in journalism. Kristin and I keep in touch, but our lifestyles are leading us down different literary paths. I really enjoy YA (young adult lit) and hope to add a few books to my list based on Kristin's suggestions.

But, for now, my literary clock is ticking, and I'm looking forward to tackling what I left behind when I dropped out of school, the quarterly book club requirements, my lifetime must-reads--and all the 500-worthy recommendations that come along the way.